"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'll have my €1.50 back. Letter to the Irish Times

Dear Geraldine Kennedy,

Phil Dykewicz, director of market research at General Motors Europe conveys the difficulties in naming new car models in today's (30/11/05) Irish Times. In a market where the number of different car models is up by a third in 10 years the number of marketable names has dropped significantly. It is surely a very difficult position Mr Dykewicz finds himself in. This must only further compound the frustration already complicated by GM's tenuous hold on US market dominance.

While GM has chosen to remain in the dark ages with regards to the new corporate environmental posing, instead choosing to continue opposing government efforts to limit vehicle emissions. It has succeeded in stalling congressional efforts to improve fuel economy. Evidently the $48,260,000 spent in lobbying between 1998 and 2004 and the $8,500,000 spent in 2004 has not been wasted.

Another innocuous article, but one than seems at odds with the near apocalyptic news of near irreversible climate change that readers have been made aware of in recent editions of the Times. Having said this, today's Irish Times is no more schizophrenic than usual, flip flopping between environmental awareness and corporate propaganda from page to page, the reader is gently guided past the reality and towards whatever airline is offering the cheapest flights. Today, Continental airlines will be getting you to New York. The flip being they can get you there for a couple of hundred Euro, the flop being that the return journey is about equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced by the average British motorist in a year. This shouldn't be news to any Irish Times reader or writer.

Jamie Smyth reported yesterday:
The level of carbon-dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today is higher than at any time in the past 650,000 years, according to a study published recently in the journal Science.

A major new report on Europe's environment due to be published today links climate change to a rise in the number of severe floods and heatwaves, and warns that it could spark a potentially catastrophic climatic event.

Frank McDonald reported:
To address the problem of climate change, the environment agency recommends reducing carbon emissions more drastically than currently proposed under the Kyoto Protocol. The keys to achieving this goal are reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency throughout Europe.

Addressing a seminar in Dublin as a prelude to the Montreal summit, principal officer Owen Ryan said making cuts "has to be the priority, rather than buying credits abroad". Last week, the Department of the Environment's most senior climate change policy official said Ireland will have to cut its dependence on oil, gas and coal "sooner rather than later."

The most recent estimates available put Ireland's emissions 24 per cent higher than they were in 1990.

In this unusual case the schizophrenic is aware of it's conflicting persona's, but is unable to choose between it's obligated goals, profit and news. This is no doubt caused by what Richard Douthwaite of Feasta was trying to explain in yesterday's Times, "Our national economies have been structured in such a way that if they don't grow, investment stops, unemployment soars and they collapse into a deep depression. Consequently, no government will dare tackle the climate crisis until that defect in their economic structure has been changed."

The Irish Times is similarly limited by it's structure, therefore it can only comment on environmental change, whereas it is obliged to continue contributing to environmental damage by advertising. Thus the Times will dutifully join the chorus praising whichever astonishing new technical feat is flavour of the month while at the same time informing it's readers of the climatic crisis around us. In essence, here's the product, here's the consequence, buy both. Actually, just buy the product.

One things for sure, with a cosy article like that with GM's Phil Dykewicz, the Irish Times is sure not to face the same fate as the LA times who lost up to $20 million in ad money for failing to allow "pressure from advertisers ... to shape coverage."

Again earlier this year the Times followed the dominant suit and heaped praise on Blair's pride and joy, the new Airbus A380, a project which Green Party Euro-MP Dr Caroline Lucas commented "undermines his stated enthusiasm for tackling climate change � and he should be hanging his head in shame.� The reporting departed little from open mouthed wonder, "[t]he size and capacity of the giant sky carrier is a sight to behold." Facts found between the awe were either misleading or just plain inaccurate. No where was it mentioned that "commercial jets add almost as much to global warming annually as the whole of Africa."

Newspapers are not obviously all to blame, the structure of our economies and the structure of the corporations that thrive within it has forced lies to be passed as truth. Having said that, I'll have my �1.50 back.

Yours sincerely,

1. http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050406
2. http://www.publicintegrity.org/lobby/profile.aspx
3. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2492
4. http://toirtap.blogspot.com/2005_04_01_toirtap_archive.html
5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/732004.stm

A Testarossa by any other name?

Namin a car has always been a tough call, but now the industry is running out of ideas, writes James Mackintosh.

The Ferrari Testarossa. Lamborghini Diablo. Ford Thunderbird. Chevrolet Corvette. The names tell you all you need to know about these cars: they make your pulse race. But, a century after Gottlieb Daimler named his new car marque after Mercedes Jellinek, the daughter of his biggest customer, the motor industry is starting to run out of ideas.

"It's becoming really difficult to pick really good names, just because so many have been used," says Phil Dykewicz, director of market research at General Motors Europe.

Anything remotely positive named after an animal, Greek god, mythical creature, sign of the zodiac, tree, town, planet or even aspirational job (think Dodge Diplomat, Nissan President, Austin Princess, Pontiac Executive or Chevrolet Celebrity) has already been tried. Even some of the less positive animals have made it, albeit not very successfully (the VW Rabbit and Mitsubishi Dingo, for example).

The problem is becoming acute in Europe and the US, where the number of models on sale has soared in the past two decades. As well as the problem of finding so many more names - there were 313 different car models on sale in Britain last year, up by a third in 10 years - rapid globalisation of the industry means the names also have to work in foreign languages and not breach trademarks elsewhere in the world.

continued... The Irish Times


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Success for Blair

Dear Madam,

Why is the dominant media still portraying Blair's recent parliamentary vote on detention without charge as a failure? Mr. Blair has managed to pass a number of draconian measures, including the detention of innocent people for 28 days without charge. This has been received without the slightest hint of criticism from nearly all mainstream news outlets. One of his most impressive successes I think.

Yours sincerely,


WP and the BBC

Dear Sirs/Madam,

In November 2004 the BBC reported that "between 10,000 and 15,000 US and Iraqi troops...were facing an estimated 3,000 insurgents inside the city [of Fallujah]" while the US commander "Gen Casey...believed some 50-70% of the civilian population of 200,000 had left the city." Leaving up to 100,000 civilians.

Biologist Mohamad Tareq, interviewed in a recent Italian documentary, said; "A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact."

How does the BBC decide between what is indiscriminate and what is not? Please illuminate me.

Yours sincerely,


Many thanks for your note. This Italian documentary was covered by us here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4417024.stm . Please be assured we will continue to cover Iraq in detail, with as many perspectives as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Pete Clifton
Head of BBC News Interactive

Dear Mr Clifton,

Thank you for your reply.

As you may know, my concern was not whether the documentary was covered or not. I was concerned about the way in which it was covered.

Earlier versions of the story you refer to contained the line:

"Italian state TV has broadcast a documentary accusing the US military of indiscriminate use of chemical weapons in the Iraqi city of Falluja last year."

The claim of indiscriminate use of chemical weapons was subsequently edited out. My question is, why?

I await your reply.

Yours sincerely,


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Iraq NOT free

Dear Madam,

Iraq's first 'democratically' elected president
Jalal Talabani spoke on Monday before the UN Security Council, meeting to discuss a resolution demanding Syrian co-operation with the organisation. Yesterday he explained how democracy works to London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat;

"I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country,"

"But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."

Evidently the freedoms, continually vaunted by western medias, that Iraqis now enjoy are limited by foreign occupation. One can only hope they will soon experience the level of democratic control those in Ireland and the UK regularly indulge. Where participation, however minimal or forceful, in a war that could potentially cause the death of thousands of innocent people is subject to the presence of indisputable evidence of imminent threat and of course, the majority of citizens approval.

Yours etc...

DUBAI - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said he opposed military action against neighbouring Syria but lacked the power to prevent US troops from using his country as a launchpad if it chose to do so.

"I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country," Talabani told the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview published Tuesday.

"But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will."



Leaving out the good stuff

Dear Madam,
A possible addendum to yesterday's article on the delay in passing Australian anti-terror laws; "Prime Minister John Howard rejects suggestions that his announcement of a possible terrorist threat is conveniently timed so as to avoid closer examination of laws, explaining "It is purely coincidental.""
yours etc...

Australian anti-terror laws delay

AUSTRALIA: Australian state leaders have held up the introduction of tough new counter-terror laws in parliament, saying they had concerns that the legislation threatened civil liberties and could breach the constitution.

The government needs the support of the eight states and territories - all governed by the opposition Labour Party - to enforce the new laws, which include jailing terror suspects without charge for up to two weeks and fitting them with electronic tracking devices.

Under the constitution, only state governments can allow suspects to be held longer than two days without charge.

State leaders in September gave unanimous support to a broad outline of the package, but rejected an initial draft of the legislation and were considering a second draft. Among their concerns were that judges would authorise detention orders, a move critics say overstepped the role of the judiciary.

© The Irish Times © AP