The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'hypocrisy'
A massive rally in the defence of free speech and in solidarity against Islamist terrorism has taken place in Paris, with the crowds estimated between 1.5 and 2 million in number, more than turned out when Paris was liberated from the Nazis. The rally has also attracted leaders from around the world, including various dictators, autocrats and authoritarians, uniting in Paris to say Je Suis Charlie, before going back to supervise their torturers giving some recalcitrant journalists a going over, or just to rush in sweeping mass-surveillance powers (which are unlikely to have helped catch terrorists the intelligence services already had on their watch lists).
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:
- In Nigeria, the Islamist group Boko Haram (whose name, meaning something like “non-Islamic education is forbidden”, says it all) have reportedly massacred some 2,000 people, all in the name of an all-merciful God, after seizing a town. (That's about 200 times the Charlie Hebdo massacre, or 2/3 of 9/11.)
- Saudi Arabia, that most honorary of members in our world-spanning alliance of freedom-loving democracies, has flogged a man 50 times for running a liberal blog and criticising the country's religious establishment (“insulting Islam”). Raif Badawi was hunted down by Saudi Arabia's morality police, undoubtedly using surveillance technologies sold by our governments to aid in the hunting down of terrorists; incidentally, Saudi law regards atheism and apostasy as forms of terrorism. Badawi is to be flogged 950 more times over the next 20 weeks, after which he will continue his 10-year prison sentence.
Raif Badawi is probably Charlie, but Saudi Arabia's ambassador to France, who was at the Je Suis Charlie rally, not so much.
Finally, it appears that the noble French tradition of freedom of offensive speech only applies to offensive speech punching outwards.
After it emerged that Thamsanqa Jantjie, the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela's memorial ceremony, had actually been making it up and just moving his arms about meaninglessly, Slavoj Žižek (no fan of well-meaning liberalism, to say the least) argues, with supreme cynicism, that his doing so was not so much a fraud as a deeper form of honesty, laying bare the hypocrisy of liberalism:
Now we can see why Jantjie's gesticulations generated such an uncanny effect once it became clear that they were meaningless: what he confronted us with was the truth about sign language translations for the deaf – it doesn't really matter if there are any deaf people among the public who need the translation; the translator is there to make us, who do not understand sign language, feel good.
And was this also not the truth about the whole of the Mandela memorial ceremony? All the crocodile tears of the dignitaries were a self-congratulatory exercise, and Jangtjie translated them into what they effectively were: nonsense. What the world leaders were celebrating was the successful postponement of the true crisis which will explode when poor, black South Africans effectively become a collective political agent. They were the Absent One to whom Jantjie was signalling, and his message was: the dignitaries really don't care about you. Through his fake translation, Jantjie rendered palpable the fake of the entire ceremonyOf course, actual deaf people might not agree with this assessment.
On Smarm, an essay pointing out that the problem with the internet is not snark but its condemnation, and through that, smarm; i.e., emotive appeals to the idea of positivity as a virtue (as if it were motherhood or apple pie or adorable kittens), and condemnation of negativity in general:
Over time, it has become clear that anti-negativity is a worldview of its own, a particular mode of thinking and argument, no matter how evasively or vapidly it chooses to express itself. For a guiding principle of 21st century literary criticism, BuzzFeed's Fitzgerald turned to the moral and intellectual teachings of Walt Disney, in the movie Bambi: "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."Smarm (whose genesis, in its current form, the article lays at the feet of that one-man Coldplay of letters, Dave Eggers, who exhorted to “not dismiss a movie until you have made one”, singlehandedly reserving the right to engage in, rather than merely consuming, culture for those within the culture industry) may be most obviously evident on the web, in cloyingly snark-free websites like Buzzfeed and Upworthy (the latter of which spawned a satirical webtoy), and the one-sided boosterism of the “like” button, but its effects go beyond the risk of ending up with an overly warmed heart and a jaw needing to be picked up off the floor. As a content-free (and thus outside of the criteria of debate) appeal to a nebulous ideal of civility or niceness (and surely everybody loves niceness, much like kittens and cupcakes), it is a tool for disingenuously shutting down challenging voices, and is very useful for bolstering the status quo when appeals to, say, the divine right of kings or the Hobbesian necessity of there being an ultimate authority, no longer hold water: don't do it because I said so, but do it because kittens.
Smarm hopes to fill the cultural or political or religious void left by the collapse of authority, undermined by modernity and postmodernity. It's not enough anymore to point to God or the Western tradition or the civilized consensus for a definitive value judgment. Yet a person can still gesture in the direction of things that resemble those values, vaguely.As concerns about “civility” and the “tone of debate” and such are raised, the result is often a soupy homogenate of truisms, motherhood statements and content-free manufactured consensus, meeting in the middle and staying there, bathed in a glow of positive sentiment: democratic debate reduced to calming mood lighting. Which undoubtedly serves interests behind the scene just fine.
Here is Obama in 2012, wrapping up a presidential debate performance against Mitt Romney: “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world's ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers being rewarded. But I also believe that everybody should have a fair shot and everybody should do their fair share and everybody should play by the same rules, because that's how our economy is grown. That's how we built the world's greatest middle class.”
The lone identifiable point of ideological distinction between the president and his opponent, in that passage, is the word "but." Everything else is a generic cross-partisan recitation of the indisputable: Free enterprise ... prosperity ... self-reliance ... initiative ... a fair shot ... the world's greatest middle class.And, of course, smarm is useful for ruling out points of view deemed to be inadmissible, on the grounds that they are too negative, or confrontational, or that we have outgrown such petty squabbling about actual issues:
The New York Times reported last month that in 2011, the Obama Administration decided not to nominate Rebecca M. Blank to be the head of the Council of Economic Advisers, because of "something politically dangerous" she had written in the past: In writing about poverty relief, she had used the word "redistribution."
Like every other mode, snark can sometimes be done badly or to bad purposes. Smarm, on the other hand, is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says "Don't Be Evil," rather than making sure it does not do evil.Topically, we are currently witnessing a tsunami of smarm over the recently deceased Nelson Mandela, as right-wing politicians, many of whom wore HANG MANDELA badges at their Conservative Students meetings or lobbied against sanctions against the apartheid regime, fawningly profess what an inspiration the great man had been to them, with the implication that Mandela was not a freedom fighter but some kind of apolitical, beatific self-help guru, a Princess Diana in Magical Negro form, come to heal us with peace and love. It's ironic to think that, as utterly wrong as Margaret Thatcher was when she denounced Mandela as a terrorist, her view was at least grounded in reality, unlike the insipid words of content-free praise her successors are heaping upon him.
Recently declassified documents from the German Foreign Ministry reveal that, in 1981, Margaret Thatcher, long seen as a hero of individual freedom and a staunch and fearless enemy of Communism, considered supporting the Polish Communist government's crackdown on the pro-democracy movement led by trade union-centred group Solidarność:
Carrington had earlier outlined the UK's position, saying that his government only backed Solidarity out of respect for public opinion, but that perhaps, from a more rational position, they would actually be "on the side of the Polish government".
Back then, Warsaw was threatened with insolvency and Thatcher evidently feared that the demands of the workers' movement could trigger a Soviet invasion. A few months later, the Polish communist Leader Wojciech Jaruzelski imposed martial law and the US invoked economic sanctions against Poland. Britain, however, avoided levying sanctions on the country.Presumably it was the “trade-union-led” bit that swung Solidarność into the same category as Nelson Mandela (considered a terrorist by the Thatcher government); after all, even if they might overthrow an evil Communist regime, what if in doing so they cause the greater harm of giving the local unionists ideas? In which case, Jaruzelski would have been a bulwark of stability, sort of like Thatcher's close friend, General Pinochet.
This wasn't Thatcher's last attempt to shore up the Eastern Bloc; later, as the Berlin Wall fell, she flew to Moscow to press Gorbachev to stop the reunification of Germany. Presumably freedom was good only where it applied to capital.
Whether or not there are any atheists in foxholes, there don't seem to be any in positions of political power who are willing to stand by their principles. Firstly Australia's outspokenly atheistic Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, proclaimed her wholehearted conviction in supporting an unaccountably authoritarian internet censorship system demanded by a Christian Fundamentalist fringe party, and now, Britain's deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, rules out eliminating the bishops from the House of Lords, instead planning to add unelected ministers of other religions for equality's sake. This token sliver of theocracy, these bishops, rabbis and imams will get to vote on legislation which affects all Britons, from waiving anti-discrimination legislation when the discrimination is guided by religious beliefs to blocking equal marriage rights for non-heterosexuals to keeping it a crime for the terminally ill to end their lives with dignity, going against the majority opinion of what is a largely secular society:
Here's a Trivial Pursuit question with an answer that isn't at all trivial. Which two nations still reserve places in their parliaments for unelected religious clerics, who then get an automatic say in writing the laws the country's citizens must obey? The answer is Iran... and Britain.
And here's the strangest kicker in this strange story: it looks like the plans being drawn up by Nick Clegg to "modernise" the House of Lords will not listen to the overwhelming majority of us and end these religious privileges. No – they are poised to do the opposite. Sources close to the reform team say they are going to add even more unelected religious figures to parliament. These plans are being drawn up as you read this and will be published soon. The time to fight is today, while we can still sway the agenda.
The atheists and secularists who are campaigning for democracy are consistently branded "arrogant" by the bishops and their noisy cheerleaders. But who is arrogant here? Is it atheists who say that since we have no evidence about how the universe came into being, we should be humble, admit we don't know, and keep investigating? Or is it the bishops, who claim that they not only "know" how everything was created, but they know exactly what that Creator thinks, how he wants us to have sex, and which pills we can take when we are dying? What could be more arrogant than claiming you have a right to an unelected seat in parliament to impose beliefs for which there is no evidence on an unbelieving population?Fortunately, there are organisations in Britain fighting against such unaccountable religious privilege: the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association are both active in campaigns on issues such as this, and when the plans are published, they're certain to be at the front of the campaign against them. Whether the government will pay any heed to them depends on how many people are in the campaign.
Thanks to her simple message (selfishness is a virtue, altruism is evil), Ayn Rand has become a leading philosophical figurehead of the American Right, alongside those other two cartoon characters, (John) Calvin and (Thomas) Hobbes. But now, new reports have emerged asserting that Rand secretly claimed welfare payments under a false name, whilst publicly thundering against the "parasites" who did exactly that:
As Pryor said, "Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out" without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn "despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently... She didn't feel that an individual should take help."
But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.Which seems, on the surface, like the height of hypocrisy, though only if one assumes that honesty is part of the equation. If one assumes that Objectivism (as Rand called her philosophy) entitles the self-chosen aspiring ruler of the world to do anything to further their own interests, including lying to others (who, being "sheeple", are unworthy of any higher consideration unless they prove themselves by similarly enlightened ruthlessness), then being a stealthy parasite upon the contemptible masses is one's prerogative.
(via Boing Boing)
The Rolling Stone has an article by gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi looking at America's right-wing populist Tea Party movement, which started off as a vaguely Libertarian movement but has since become an incoherent tangle of old white people scared of people not like them, and is well along the path of being assimilated into a tool of America's corporate elites to dismantle the remaining regulations that stand between them and feudal dominance. Anyway, a few of the many choice passages from the article:
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.
Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.
The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me — I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with "people who do not cherish America the way we do" is that "they did not read the Federalist Papers.") Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill "cracker babies," support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate. Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called "White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo," checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.
Louise Wener, frontwoman of Britpop band Sleeper turned popular novelist, has written a memoir of her time in the Britpop scene/hype machine. If this review (by the ever-credible Jude Rogers, in the perennially right-on New Statesman) is anything to go by, it sounds like an interesting read:
After many years of Wener playing in different bands to general indifference, her four-piece Sleeper - named after the Woody Allen film - finally get signed by a major label in 1993. She is unforgiving about the conservative bias of the independent music scene, and holds the media in particular contempt. In the band's first interview with the New Musical Express, she is infuriated by a self-professed "revolutionary Trotskyite revisionist Leninist" who directs all his questions to her male bandmates, and later dismisses her as a "mad, ranty pop bird on the loose".
Wener also dismantles the myth that the likes of Blur were intelligent pop revolutionaries. She describes their rudeness, their ruthless ambition and their "easy, bohemian, moneyed odour". And then there are the groupies. Wener leaves nothing out. The bassist Alex James tells a young woman, "You're ugly, but I'm going to fuck you anyway," while their tour manager is despatched to select attractive girls from the audience and give them after-show tickets, known as "Blur-job passes".
As revelations of endemic child rape supported by the Catholic Church for decades (if not centuries) emerge, including claims that the current Pope was instrumental in protecting rapists, the Church has responded,
apologising profusely, handing suspects over to authorities and liquidating its assets to pay compensation, rubbishing the accusations as "petty gossip", blaming "gay culture" for child abuse and comparing criticism of the Church to anti-Semitism. Some are calling for the Pope to be dismissed, though, unfortunately, there is no way to sack a Pope, what with him being infallible and all that. Now, Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has called for Pope Benedict XVI to be put on trial by the International Criminal Court; Robertson argues that the sovereign immunity of the Vatican is too flimsy to stand up, and even if not, heads of state who preside over atrocities can be stripped of it to face trial:
It hinges on the assumption that the Vatican, or its metaphysical emanation, the Holy See, is a state. But the papal states were extinguished by invasion in 1870 and the Vatican was created by fascist Italy in 1929 when Mussolini endowed this tiny enclave – 0.17 of a square mile containing 900 Catholic bureaucrats – with "sovereignty in the international field ... in conformity with its traditions and the exigencies of its mission in the world". The notion that statehood can be created by another country's unilateral declaration is risible: Iran could make Qom a state overnight, or the UK could launch Canterbury on to the international stage.
This claim could be challenged successfully in the UK and in the European Court of Human Rights. But in any event, head of state immunity provides no protection for the pope in the international criminal court (see its current indictment of President Bashir). The ICC Statute definition of a crime against humanity includes rape and sexual slavery and other similarly inhumane acts causing harm to mental or physical health, committed against civilians on a widespread or systematic scale, if condoned by a government or a de facto authority. It has been held to cover the recruitment of children as soldiers or sex slaves. If acts of sexual abuse by priests are not isolated or sporadic, but part of a wide practice both known to and unpunished by their de facto authority then they fall within the temporal jurisdiction of the ICC – if that practice continued after July 2002, when the court was established.
Australian far-right politician Pauline Hanson, who founded the rabidly anti-immigrant One Nation party and later ran separately on right-wing populist tickets, has announced that she is leaving Australia and plans to emigrate to the UK. She cited as her reason disappointment with the way Australia has changed.
Had she invented a time machine and gone back to the UK circa 1950, she might have a point, but these days, the UK is not so much the cradle of the white British race as another cosmopolitan melting pot, only with better curry and worse coffee. I wonder whether she'll end up joining the BNP.
Now if Pauline Hanson wanted to move to a place populated entirely by people of pure White British stock, there is one candidate: it's named Tristan da Cunha, located in the south Atlantic, accessible only by two ships a year, and its population is comprised of the descendants of British settlers. Everybody's white and either Catholic or Anglican and you can't get a decent pad thai noodles for love or money. It doesn't get much better than this, Pauline.
McSweeney's looks at the stage setup for the next round of U2 concerts:
Edge's guitars are transferred out to the IP in two golf carts that run on a track under the stage, and his tech will offload the instruments into a pneumatic tube that uses pressurized air to push each instrument up as it is needed for each song in the five-song Intimacy Pod set. He'll use three guitars per song, switching out for various parts of each tune, so that's fifteen guitars in transit under the ray's "wings" while his other thirty-one guitars remain back in the main abdomen. Larry and Adam are "birthed" from the rear underside of the ray's belly and then swung around to the Intimacy Pod on separate sub-stages that "float" out over the crowd on cables. This approach keeps it simple; like a small rock club, really, giving the fans a chance to experience the band as if they've just walked into a pub or tavern to see their favorite band.
The main stage, just the manta ray's head and wings, rolls out in one hundred and ten, eighteen-wheeler twelve-ton trucks. Those vehicles are our lead roll, so those trucks are first out of the current stadium and first in to the next one. And we've got three sets of those trucks, because we're leapfrogging three manta rays. In other words, while you're watching this show tonight in Hyde Park, we've already got a one hundred and ten truck convey on its way to the Go-Green EarthAid™ festival in Oslo with our second manta ray rig, and another one hundred and ten trucks on convoy to, say, Iceland for The World is Hungry® Global Relief Concert.
Make Hypocrisy History, a charity for nihilistic greedheads who like being seen as superior. Instead of giving money to charities which will undoubtedly misallocate it or to beggars who will use it to buy drugs or guns, €100 will buy you a plastic bracelet imprinted with a simple diamond logo, whose design says "my bracelet costs as much as your iPod". All proceeds go to the designer of the campaign, who will use them as he sees fit. (Check out the FAQ.)
(via David Gerard)
Documents recently smuggled out of Moscow have revealed the chaos that immediately preceded and followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Warsaw Pact regimes. In particular, it turns out that Margaret Thatcher, that heroine of freedom who reputedly stared down Communism and brought liberty to the East, actually flew to Moscow to press Gorbachev to stop the reunification of Germany, in the interests of stability.
“We do not want a united Germany,” she said. “This would lead to a change to postwar borders, and we cannot allow that because such a development would undermine the stability of the whole international situation and could endanger our security.”Thatcher wasn't alone in this; French President François Mitterrand was also vehemently opposed to German reunification and was even considering a military alliance with the USSR, under the guise of "fighting natural disasters" to shore up the Iron Curtain.
This just in:
Irish Dutch rock'n'roll businessman and globe-trotting "environmentalist" Saint Bono is a colossal hypocrite:
Perhaps appropriately, the tour’s carbon footprint can also be measured in space terms, with their colossal emissions of up to 65,000 tonnes of CO2 enough to fly Bono, the Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr from earth to the planet Mars — and back.
The band’s vast emissions are dozens of times bigger than Madonna’s carbon footprint on her 2006 world tour, despite her extravagant demands and 250 staff. She produced 1,635 tonnes in air transport.
Today's heartwarming display of ecumenical outreach between religions comes to us courtesy of Australian Christian-right parliamentarian Reverend Fred Nile, who has tabled a bill to ban toplessness on beaches, to protect the sensibilities of Muslims and Asians who are not used to such licentiousness:
The Reverend Nile has rejected allegations that prudishness is behind a bill he has prepared to ban nudity, including topless sunbathing, on the state's most popular beaches.
Australia's reputation as a conservative but culturally inclusive sociery was at risk of erosion by more liberal overseas visitors, he said.Of course, Australia has only been a "conservative society" for some 11 years. Well, and all the time up to the Whitlam government in the 1970s, but that was a long time ago. Now, it's gradually and haltingly inching its way back towards a Western secular-liberal consensus. (Not at any great rate, mind you; video games unsuitable for children are still outlawed, film censorship is still handled by the Howard government's conservative appointees, and there is that national firewall proposal that keeps lumbering forward, zombie-fashion, despite not being remotely viable; but still...) Some people, though, don't want to abandon their dream of Australia as a spiritually pure Kingdom of Prester John in the South.
"Our beaches should be a place where no one is offended, whether it's their religious or cultural views," he said.No-one? I wonder whether this extends to the Wahhabi Muslims who would be offended by the exposure of naked female ankles and elbows, or even faces, on Reverend Nile's modesty-enhanced beaches. Or even by the fact that men and women can be on the same beach in each other's company. Unless Reverend Nile is prepared to mandate full gender segregation of beaches and the full burqa for women, I suspect he is being a wee bit hypocritical.
Now that he no longer needs the votes of the faith-based voters, outgoing president George W. Bush pretty much admits to not believing that religious stuff he earlier expounded:
Here's the précis: he does not believe in the literal truth of the Bible, did not invade Iraq because of his Christianity and does not believe his faith is incompatible with evolution. Bush will not even assert that the Almighty – who, he believes, is much the same one as is worshipped by other religions – chose him to become president.Remember that Jesus Camp documentary, in which kids from the red states were indoctrinated in Taliban-style facilities to believe that Bush is the instrument of God's will? Well, I'll bet there will be a lot of disillusionment there.
Some concerned parties have started a new campaign: they are collecting pledges to donate to campaigns against AIDS, TB and malaria in the developing world, as soon as rock'n'roll businessman and public face of charity Bono retires from public life:
The RED campaign has managed to spend $40 million more on marketing that it has raised from RED product sales, while sending consumers a dangerous message. Read more
Many involved in the global fight against AIDS worry that RED will make it harder to raise funds, and that the oversimplified & disempowered image of Africa that Bono perpetuates, as exemplified in these incredibly condescending lyrics from the Band Aid Xmas song Bono helped create, obscures and undermines the assets African nations must focus on to defeat AIDS and poverty.
The grassroots leaders of the global fight against AIDS didn’t ask for Bono to be their frontman. Its time for Bono to step down. We’ll all pledge donations to the Global Fund, but no pledges are collected until Bono retires from public life.So far, US$770 has been pledged.
The head of the San Diego branch of the Republican Party has been revealed to be none other than the founder of videogame cracking ring Fairlight, who were responsible for a large proportion of the pirated Commodore 64 games in circulation. Tony Krvaric, was born in Sweden of Croatian parents but emigrated to the US in 1992 to escape the stifling constraints of social democracy, co-founded Fairlight in 1987, going by the handle "Strider". Even back then, Krvaric was known for his right-wing politics, and included the motto "Kill a commie for Mommy" in bragging screens on cracked titles he released.
Roof-mounted wind turbines are becoming the Hummers of environmental consciousness: they're big, unmistakeably conspicuous and demonstrate without question the owner's green credentials and general Guardian-reading smugness. It's a pity, then, that they don't actually do much for the environment:
Green campaigners warn that rooftop windmills do little to cut greenhouse gases, may annoy your neighbours, cause vibrations that could damage your home and produce only enough electricity to power a hairdryer.
Friends of the Earth said homeowners would only save tiny amounts of electricity by investing in turbines. 'For householders the idea of a turbine is very sexy because it's an exciting piece of kit. It's making a very visible statement to the effect that, "I'm doing my bit",' said Nick Rau, a campaigner at the group. 'It's glamorous to put something on your roof. But if energy efficiency is the top priority, there are many other, much more straightforward things you could do that are much more cost effective, and more beneficial for the environment, like insulating your loft thoroughly.'
An Italian television programme invited 50 politicians to its studio on the pretext of being interviewed and surreptitiously tested them for drugs; the result was that 12 politicians tested positive for cannabis, and 4 for cocaine:
The programme sent a reporter to interview lower house deputies allegedly for a programme about the 2007 draft budget currently going through parliament.
But unbeknown to each of them, the make-up artist employed by the show was dabbing their brow with swabs, and their perspiration was later tested for cannabis and cocaine.The satirical programme, Le Iene ("The Hyænas") is on the network run by right-wing ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, so it is not known how impartial the target selection was. Given that cannabis was more prevalent than cocaine, one does wonder.
All is not well in the happy kingdom of Wikipedia; it has now been revealed that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has committed the cardinal faux-pas of editing his own entry; what's more, the edits involved him removing a reference to former Wikipedia employee Larry Sanger as a co-founder of the site and references to the porn business his previous enterprise, Bomis, was involved in. Other users have attempted to put back the deleted information, only to have their edits reverted as "vandalism"; some are hopping mad. Wales claims to have good reasons why both edits are objective and appropriate; though even if he is right, the fact that he made the edits himself can't help but reflect badly on them and the reliability of Wikipedia.
You know those American Apparel "sweat-shop free" T-shirts with the reality-porn-style ads in VICE Magazine and such? Well, apparently the company is not quite as ethically sound as it claims to be:
According to a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board and settled by the company, American Apparel engaged in tactics of intimidation to bust an attempt at unionization, including interrogating workers about their support for a union, soliciting workers to withdraw their union authorization cards and threatening to close the facility if a union was formed. The company also allegedly printed armbands to be worn at work which read, "no union," and forced employees to attend an anti-union rally.
As a result of their settlement with the National Labor Relations Board, American Apparel signed an agreement promising not to engage in union-busting tactics in the future.
Tory-affiliated British magazine The Spectator has a rather arch write-up of the Schapelle Corby spectacle and reaction to it in Australia: (registration required)
It's the ultimate reality TV show. Corby, who seems to be the only bule (foreigner) in Bali who doesn't sweat, has adapted well to her starring role. In jail she has slimmed down from a plumpish and brassy suburban shrill to a demure girl-next-door. Last week she added an elegant and much-fingered necklace crucifix to her outfit. The news execs love it, but their concern for Corby contrasts with their apparent indifference to the plight of the dozen or so other Australians -- Asian Australians -- held elsewhere in the region and either charged with or convicted of drug-smuggling.
Australians fancy they see something of the Gallipoli spirit in Corby. She has been cast as a humble "Aussie battler" abandoned by her government and struggling in vain to overcome an insurmountable foreign adversary. The enemy is not "Johnny Turk" this time but the "brutal" Indonesian legal system which has the nerve to conduct its affairs in Bahasa Indonesia, not Australian English. As Corby fans see it, the bases were clearly all loaded against their girl, the sinister outcome predetermined in Indonesia's murky shadows.
Though could one think of a better folk hero for a nation which prides itself on its larrikinism, whose unofficial national anthem is a song about a sheep thief, and where an armed robber has been transformed into everything from Robin Hood to the spiritual father of the Australian Labor Party and/or the Republican movement? Especially in the age of reality-TV, where photogenic looks and image management count for a lot.
At the end, the article ties in the spectacle to the latte-sipping-cosmopolitan-elite-vs.-silent-majority-of-suburban-battlers culture-war dialectic:
The demographer Bernard Salt says the Corby matter explodes what has always been the myth of Australian egalitarianism. Salt has previously noted, controversially, that Australia, like most countries, has an educated minority, a cultural and cosmopolitan elite that directs its politics, its economy, its popular culture, with the majority functionong as essentially its market. He says that Australia's cosmopolitans account for at most one million of the nation's 20 million people.
But the elite aren't calling the shots on this one. There has been talk of a "redneck coup". And the circus shows no signs of packing up. A new lawyer has just been appointed to handle Our Schapelle's appeal. I met him last week, and he did not disappoint me. His name is Paris Hutapea, and he carries two sidearms (a Beretta and a Walther), sports shiny blue suits and an impressive mullet, and drives to work in a Humvee. His fingers drip with opal and diamond rings. He and big sister Mercedes should hit it off.
Meanwhile, Bruce Schneier writes about the anthrax scare at the Indonesian embassy, revealing that, since 9/11. there has been a white-powder scare in Australia on average every four days (most of which have been kept out of the news by the Australian press's (voluntary) D-notice regime).
Former Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell has condemned a reality TV show based on selecting potential MPs. Campbell has denounced ITV's "Vote For Me" series (or "Political Idol", as some call it), in which an "independent" political candidate is selected and groomed from a field of contestants, as exploiting youth cynicism and undermining the importance of politics. Which is all a bit rich, coming from the architect of Cool Britannia and Teflon Tony's image-conscious, style-over-substance media strategy.
Veteran Communist dictator turned anti-globalisation movement hero and World's First Punk Statesman, Fidel Castro hails the Internet as a weapon against communications monopolies, by which he probably means the evil Yanqui capitalist propaganda engines. Given that this is coming from a despot who keeps a draconian grip on all means of communication and organisation in his prison-state (even the Cuban Government's overseas propaganda publications are banned at home, because ordinary Cubans are forbidden from knowing the details the government's propagandists have to put in to give them credibility to McWorlders), I must say this rings a little hollow. Though he probably said it for the benefit of the Nu Marxists in the protest movement. (via TechDirt)
(Btw, is there anybody like Salam Pax in Havana, somehow managing to keep a blog and avoid the attentions of the secret police? (I mean anyone who isn't a transparent propaganda ploy by one side or the other?))
Delegates to the recent Earth Summit, held to discuss solutions to environmental problems and poverty
and ways to weasel out of actually doing anything about them have produced produced 290,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide by flying to the summit, using electricity and driving around.
A voluntary fund was set up to offset this damage, but so far, only 1/7 of this has been paid for.
(via die puny humans)