Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"The knowing look" maneuver


In social settings; 'the knowing look' is a particular phenomena which can be considered as part of a range of practiced social skills. It can be a subtle and at times complex phenomena forming part of the 'dance' of social interaction. It may be a more positive or times negative activity, more knowingly or unknowingly practiced by a few or multiple individuals, who may have converging or diverging motivations. It is argued that there may be conceptualised a number of motivations and effects arising with this phenomena and any number of these may combine together as 'motivations' and result in 'effects'. It is argued that providing an indepth understanding of this particular phenomena can be of benefit to professionals and individuals in becoming aware, reflective and vigilant to social situations where this and other social cues are practiced.


The 'knowing look', commonly seen as a fleeting shared eye contact and associated facial gesture amongst two or more people, often plays a crucial role in friendship building as well as reflecting a continuing bond amongst close ties. It has been a social cue practiced by humans for generations. Manifesting as a brief gesture in the social 'dance', it is an art in itself, known by many but perhaps practiced by fewer. It's negotiation and timing are crucial in carrying it off as naturally and effortlessly as possible. It can be practiced as part of a conversation between two, or may be practiced in social settings amongst numerous individuals. It can seem an almost spontaneous occurrence arising out of a situation, or it may be more resolutely 'instigated' as an opportunity persists. It is an interesting yet under-analysed phenomena and this brings me to seek to provide a conceptual framework which can throw further light on its raison d'ĂȘtre, as well as to suggest some applied or normative uses from gaining a more indepth understanding. Bearing in mind 'the knowing look' arises as a specifically social phenomena, questions which have helped focus the enquiry include: What is the 'knowing look' activity? Why do people instigate the 'knowing look' activity? How did it arrise? Does it have a purpose? If so, what purpose does it serve? What are the motivations behind its 'instigation' and the effects of its practice?

Proposed conceptual framework

There appears several 'motivations' which may arise with 'the knowing look' and 'effects' which result from its practice. These can be broken down into:

1.Power and Leveraging power
2.Building friendships
3.Consolidating friendships
4.Subtle forms of bullying (ridiculing, isolating etc.)
5.Communicating an understanding, perspective or reality
6.Acknowledging shared understandings, perspective or realities
7.Solidifying understandings, perspectives or realities
8.Expressing concern

It may be the case that a combination of these concepts culminate as a complex cognitive-affective expression manifesting physically as a 'knowing look' which is then realised (either intended or unintended) as a singulation or combination of the above concepts. Importantly, it may be instigated as a more cognitive (thinking) or affective (feeling) expression, and this may be motivated at a more conscious or unconscious level. Also, it may be perscieved and reflected upon by the participants at varying degrees of consciousness. It's practice may be more learned and behavioural, or may be more consciously and contingently instigated.

Leveraging power relates to the idea that there are flows of power amongst social groupings or even perceived flows of power, where individuals consciously or otherwise seek to solidify or extend their power and related stature and influence; through participating in activities which can realise their goals. They may also seek to positively leverage the flow of power amongst a social grouping where they percieve an inbalance, or they may have whats considered negative or malicious underlying motivations. These activities can relate to physical mannerisms, as well as communicative utterances, which serve an instrumental purpose. Of course it must be recognised that there are also learned behaviours and traits as well as non-instrumental mannerisms, expressions and communication which takes place. The important point is that by participating in 'the knowing look' activity, individuals may be consciously or unconsciously seeking to leverage power within the social setting. For example, they may be looking to take (social) power away from the unknowing participant, or in tandem or otherwise, they may be seeking to relatively increase their stature and influence relative to the 'unknowing' participant. Furthermore, they may seek not necessarily to leverage power, but may seek to manifest power as a result of the social cue. The concept of power can be related closely to bullying but also to friendship formation and consolidation.

Building Friendships relates to how individuals use the particular social cue of the 'knowing look' to create or build friendships with the person participating in this activity. This can often closely relate to acknowledging shared realities, which can act as commonality on which to build friendship.

Consolidating Friendships relates to maintaining and strengthening relationships through participating in such social activities. For example, using 'the knowing look' may be an opportunity to solidify or strengthen friendship where there is a perceived weakness in the 'tie' that one wishes to address. Often the 'knowing look' activity may not be 'purposeful' or 'instrumental' as such, some times it may be more accurately envisaged as a reflection of a continuing friendship.

'The knowing look' practiced to the exclusion of others within the particular social setting may be a form of psychological bullying. In this instance, the 'activity' or 'practice' may be purposefully or unintentionally a form of bullying. In the case of purposeful bullying; the persons participating in the 'knowing look' (particularly the instigator) may be seeking to (1)ridicule, (2)exclude, (3)isolate or (4)a combination of the first three with a malicious intent in mind. To add to this, if the 'knowing look' was meant to be witnessed by the 'victim', it may be construed as a more explicit form of bullying whereby ridicule or embarrassment etc is sought to be inflicted, or a communication of power is sought to be delivered etc. Furthermore, if the 'unknowing' participant unintentionally witnesses the act, they may be the victim of unintentional bullying. It is useful at this time to reflect on the concepts of positive exclusion (harmless) and negative exclusion (malicious). There are of course many instances of 'the knowing look' which are forms of positive exclusion. The concept of bullying is closely tied to that of Power and leveraging power, and represents leveraging power and diminishing power in a purer form (moving towards an 'ideal type') and with more negative motivations and/or effects.

Communicating understandings, perspectives and realities
The knowing look may be instigated for the specific purpose of communicating with the recipient through subtle sensorimotor behaviour. In this instance the instigator wishes to communicate an understanding, perspective or reality. This can often be used in the act of courting whereby the activity is exclusive to 2 individuals and is not concerned with a third party, but may also be used in acts of consolidating friendships, expressing concern, leveraging power or even bullying etc.

Acknowledging shared perspectives or realities
'The knowing look' is often a social cue practiced in order to acknowledge a shared reality or perspective. It may to a lesser degree entail acknowledging an 'understanding'. For example individuals may capitalise on a shared perspective or understanding for use as a commonality from which to build or consolidate a friendship or relationship. It may be instigated by one individual seeking acknowledgement for an understanding, perspective or reality to which they believe they have, or have bore witness to, or it may be a spontaneous occurrence amongst two or more individuals.

Solidifying realities or perspectives
Similar to acknowledging shared realities or perspectives, the knowing look may be about solidifying or substantiating an understanding, reality or perspective. Individuals may look for confirmation that their understanding, perspective or reality is somehow 'more real' or not merely envisioned by themselves.

Expressing concern

Finally, the Knowing look may be concerned with expressing or communicating a concern for the unknowing individual in question. This may arise as individuals bear witness to communications and behaviourisms from an individual which they 'think' they understand, or which they 'think' they don't understand. This concept is closely tied and is a common motive and effect; in communicating, acknowledging and solidifying understandings, perspectives and realities. It may range from issuing a mere bemusement with the unknowing individual to an expression of deep concern.

Conclusion and discussion

'The knowing look' activity forms as part of a range of social skills which individuals develop and participate in, known cumulatively as social competence. It arises naturally as individuals develop socially through a range of social interaction. Often degrees of social interaction need to be 'maintained' in order for individuals to 'maintain' their ability to successfully initiate and participate in social cues and etiquette's. It is proposed that there may be motivations and effects related to the practice of 'the knowing look'. These may be broken down into 8 concepts, though it must be recognised that many of these concepts are in many instances closely bound to each other, with 'bullying' and 'expressing concern' often strong and common examples of 'power and leveraging power' and 'expressing communicating undestandings etc.' respectively. Significantly, these concepts often combine as motivations and result in planned and unplanned effects. 'The knowing look', may be instigated as a more cognitive (thinking) or affective (feeling) expression, and this may be motivated at a more conscious or unconscious level. Also, it may be perscieved and reflected upon by the participants at varying degrees of consciousness. It's practice may be more learned and behavioural, or may be more consciously and contingently instigated.

It is often the case that individuals who have suffered some form of repression at some point in their lives become 'cunning' as a result of inward development. This may be seen as a 'coping strategy' and an 'attempt' to overcome the oppression (see for example Nietzsche's conscience in Ridley, 1998, p.8). Following on from this last point, there is the hypothesis that some individuals are more attentive to their social abilities and are more active in utilising certain social cues to realise their goals. For example, a recent study argued that "individuals either fearing [social] rejection or suffering actual [social] rejection show increased attention to social cues" (Bernstein et al, 208, p981). Thus, percieved or substantied types of 'repression', or what Bernstein et al coined 'social rejection'; may result in individuals being more sensitive to social cues, and perhaps practicing 'the knowing look' and other subtle social cues in social situations more than others, as well as interpreting and using these for purposes (and in ways) which differ from others. Although it seems likely that as one gets older, such aptness of social cues are developed by anyone participating in social interaction, it may be useful to pay particular attention to children who have developed these abilities faster and are more attentive to this practice more than others. Why is this the case? Conversely, those who are viewed as lacking the ability to read social cues(kinestic) and participate in them; may lack the sufficent socialisation or may suffer from a learning difficulty or disability.

Having more indepth and resonant knowledge about social cues may help enamour professionals in more easily identifing individuals who require attention or even help. For example, having the necessary indepth knowledge and awareness of social cues may provide; school teachers, councilors and other professionals with the ability to be more reflective, aware and vigilant to the phenomena taking place in social settings. This may lead them to more easily identify bullying and forms of negative exclusion. Also, to identify individuals who more actively practice such social cues and do so in certain ways, as well as identifying those who lack the necessary competences.

In an everyday context, having more in depth knowledge of such social cues may allow individuals to be more vigilant to its negative use in social settings, and may allow individuals to reflect on their own use of social cues and whether they be positive or negative.

Overall, it is considered that empirical work ought to be done to further explore the practice of this particular phenomena in various social settings. For example, under the problem of identifying repressed children, it could be considered whether certain children who use social cues in certain ways have developed this social skill more extensively out of a need to do so? Furthermore, professionals who wish to understand and positively act upon a social environment may benefit from being more receptive and reflective to the subtle and nuanced social practices which take place. Understanding the use of practices such as 'the knowing look', may uncover previously unrecognised problems in a social settting.


Bernstein, M et al, (2008) Adaptive Responses to Social Exclusion: Social Rejection Improves Detection of Real and Fake Smiles Psychological Science 19(10): 981-984

Ridley, A (1998) Nietsche's Conscience USA: Cornell University Press

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Shame on you Chris Martin, Shame

The artist Joe Satriani is rightly suing coldplay for blatant plagiarising his work, as demonstrated on the single 'viva la vida'.

Joe Satriani - if i could fly:

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ubuntu grievances....

So I'm back using Ubuntu (the fancy gui laden linux), literally because Vista's lackluster performance led me to.

And yes, what a relief; speed, performance and it's cracking GUI advanced interface options come as a welcome relief. But, ubuntu obviously has its shortcomings, the most noticably so far being installing items. Basically, if you have the update manager running to download an upgrade or several program updates; you can't install anything else simulataneously. Furthermore, you can only install one item at a time. This can be especially frustrating given upgrades can take hours to download on an average ISP connection.

Also, Vista's 'Cleartype', 'graphics', 'icons' and 'font' choices are still miles ahead of Ubuntu and customising these items is a must in order not to feel like you've been transported to the past!

Finally, concluding my brief rant, the gdesktop widgets are still wanting in many regards and thus, on my 'wishlist', would be a plethora of new widgets to choose from. But overall, gripes are superficial at worst, Ubuntu has evolved in leaps and bounds since I got involved 2 years ago!

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Bye Bye Paper ??

Now that e-readers and e-paper are finally beginning to trickle into the market-place, what are the key issues surrounding these developments and where could this all lead?

It's now been 2 years since the second generation of E-Reader devices hit the market. The past year has seen several additions to the line-up including; Amazon's Kindle and an updated Sony E-Reader. These devices may herald the transformation of the publishing industry, as e-books can be downloaded and updated with these devices, consumer's and scholar's can effectively have their book collection or more significantly the world's libraries on the palm of their hand's.

What's so 'special' and significant about these devices is the incorporation of 'E-Ink' displays. E-Ink, unlike LCD or LED displays, are not back-lit. A kind of 'electronic ink' gets rearranged to form words and pictures as the user switches pages. The technology allows improved readability and reduced eye-strain, in addition to much improved battery life as compared to LCD. The technology promises to marry many of the benefits of a traditional book with the advantages of computers and the Web.

Now that the technology has gone to industrial scale production and sales are 'slowly' creeping up, the market is forming to allow further innovation, proliferation and price reduction. In essence, the cogs in the E-ink machine are slowly beginning to turn. Just recently, a German factory in Dresden (Plastic Logic), went into operation turning out a 'newspaper' version of the technology alongside the 'EBook Reader' devices already in 'circulation'. These devices’s, (the technology still in its infancy), will eventually supplement, and may one-day even replace traditional newspapers. Developing technology and industry growth in this sector means we may inhabit a predominantly 'paperless' world in the not too distant future. A world in some ways reminiscent of that portrayed in Spielberg's film, 'Minority Report'. The devices 'currently' are only available in black and white, other short-comings currently exist such as memory, processing power, battery life and connectivity. However, down the road, it is envisaged that such devices will form part of the 'ubiquitous' web, with multi-coloured screens, multi-media capability and live updating of content. Furthermore, the amount of content and functionality of these E-Reader devices will drastically improve. The latest generation already allow for underlining and note taking of text, in the not too distant future, continual updating of e-books, user's contributing through discussion of passages, as well as enhanced functionality such as automatic summarisation and correlation of note-taking etc, will undoubtedly be forthcoming.

There are a few significant issues which ought to be explored in light of this. Firstly, how environmentally sustainable will such an industry be, as opposed to the paper industry? What will the total environmental footprint be in manufacturing and disposing of these devices? We have already seen from existing computer and electronic manufacturing, that this footprint can be significant. Hundreds of parts, manufactured using harmful chemicals, flown in from around the world to an assembly site before being shipped back around the world; represents industry norms at present. This is before we factor in direct and indirect energy, water and waste by-products. We must also question the short life-cycle of these devices (in a capitalist society) as well as their disposal and replacement. In sum, there is the need to scrutinise and improve the environmental credentials of the electronics industry from cradle to grave. The European WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) directive goes some way to steering the industry in a positive direction.

Certainly the traditional paper industry has environmental shortfalls with much room for improvement. Even with the growth of E-Paper replacing paper, it must be recognised that packaging presently consumes half of all paper produced. Up to 40 of total municipal waste in the US is paper based. Paper production has been cited as accounting from anything between 20% to 40% of global logging and is one of the most water intensive industries requiring c.20 thousand gallons of water per ton of paper. Concern also exists about the degree of wood logging from non-'farmed' forests, particularly in developing countries. This is in light of global paper consumption increasing at over 3% annually into the foreseeable future. On a positive note, recycled paper accounts for about c.40% of total paper used globally, though in some western countries; recycling rates have hit 60%. Thus, there is enormous scope for overall improvements in paper recycling, and in reduction of packaging. With the advent of e-paper, significant environmental benefits may be added by reducing paper use, if an environmentally sustainable electronics industry emerges to supplement it. One that in aggregate outweighs the benefits of recycled paper. In any event, the push and pull factors of e-paper and e-readers looks set to increase!!

There are also other issues that must be considered alongside environmental concerns. Advertising currently subsidises the newspaper industry, can a model be developed that ensures the devices themselves are subsidised so that the gap in information inequality is not increased? Technology has the potential to increase equality by improving access to more information by all sectors in society, but without foresight, technology can also act as a barrier in terms of cost, awareness, understanding and 'computer literacy'.

We must also ask whether more information is better information or even needed information. Are we becoming a society of superficial information junkies? Research has shown we increasingly 'flicker' through content rapidly on the internet, prepared to trawl through a number of articles in order to grab snippets of interesting or relevant information without spending the time trying to get a more in-depth understanding of particular topics. The emergence of E-paper devices may continue and expand this trend for better or worse. With such an abundance of easily retrieval information available, it may seem increasingly difficult for individuals to 'filter' and 'process' the abundance of information. Thus, how will all this impact us psychologically in terms of attention span, memory and behavioural traits? There is belief that it will lead to increased selectivity and 'differentiation', meaning readers can increasingly become selective about what content they wish to know about, perhaps at the expense of democracy and the 'public good'. It is a well known phenomenon that individuals have a tendency to selectivity, choosing information that's agreeable with their prior knowledge, sometimes adopting theories about things which favour preconceived biases or conclusions. Existing Paper formats cover a wide range of content from politics, social issues to economic and lifestyle issues. Individuals 'paying' for a newspaper may be more inclined to read from a wider range of stories and view-points, in-turn having a more rounded knowledge of current-affairs and everyday reality as a result. With E-Paper, users will eventually be able to choose what content (and by whom) they wish to receive by page or even by column. Thus, research which ascertains the information behaviour of e-paper users seems timely.

Ending on a positive note, the maturation of e-reader devices may have enormous benefits for scholars and consumers alike. It certainly means increased access and availability of high quality content. With access through a library portal, students will no-longer need to visit the library for text books; there will be no such thing as limited availability. There will be enormous easing of 'friction' in terms of time and space, as books become almost instantaneously retrievable, illiminating the time and journey involved in accessing content. Furthermore, unlike books on a shelf, e-books don't degrade and can't be defaced. Students and consumers may have automatic updates; newer editions may be factored into the 'purchase' or 'rental' price of content. With online accounts, e-readers that get lost or stolen will not mean the need for repurchasing of content. From this we can gage that the role of the traditional library may change in light of this new model. The issue of 'trust' may become more crucial as 'library portals' and 'publishers' (being gatekeepers of information) may be viewed increasingly like brands, some 'brands' trusted more in terms of providing filtered reliable high quality content.

Finally, where does this leave the traditional book, newspaper and magazines? Notwithstanding the likely negatives in terms of cost and environmental credentials of the paper industry, it seems likely that paper will continue to play a role in our lives long into the future. The vast proportion of information may become solely electronic but; key texts, magazines and fictional works will likely remain in print as well as electronic format. Changes in the academic journal sector in the past 20 years indicate such a possible scenario. Individuals will likely still place emotional value on physical copy. Filled book-shelves may be an expression of personality, an indication of status, or provide a feeling of tangible ownership. The feel and smell of the book, the linear arrangement of text, the ability to personalise, flick through pages; all these unique features are known to aid memory. Books can also provide spatial reference and association of information, provide emotional comfort and value, as well as convey a sense of permanence. Thus, the future it seems may be principally electronic, but reports of the traditional newspaper or book’s death, are greatly exaggerated!!

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Real Palin interview versus Saturday Night Live

Like many who caught the latest Palin sketch on Youtube, I was both highly entertained and shocked by the uncannyness of the impressions and the content of the sketches. But, whats even more shocking is how similar the sketch is to the real interview in both content and form;

Check out the sketch first at;

Now have a look at clips from the real interview;

I think the clips speak for themselves....

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Youtube funnies to check out!

Here are three youtube videos that have come my way recently...

The first is an uncanny and hilarious impersonation of Sarah Palin on 'Saturday Night Live';

The next came to me from a friend after my Kraftwerk gig on saturday night;

and finally, thanks to my favourite secretary, check out this bizarre 'Ninja Cat' video;


Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A musical tribute to RTE Newscasters....

Check out this bizarre musical tribute site to RTE newscasters:

Worth a listen, but quickly becomes old and irritating....

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Electric Picnic 2008; the verdict

To give my quick rundown of 'Electric Picnic', detailing my high's and low's, read on...

After hauling myself and dragging my stuff to and from this year's 'premier' festival, here's my take on Ireland's largest annual 'picnic':

Firstly, a big 'Yes' to 'Ginderman', 'Josh Ritter' and 'Santogold'. Yes to 'Cut Copy's' live gig despite their recent albums' scrappy and disjunctured mixing. Yes to 'The Herbaliser', to 'Franz Ferdinand' and to 'Elbow'. Yes to 'Sigur Ros' but 'No' to their lack of uptempo tunes on the set-list. On a 'more' subjective note; CSS really 'sucks', the poor sound quality killed 'The kills', we yawned and promptly escaped from 'The breeders' and woe there funkastic 'Chromeo'; too slow!!

On to food and drink: Yes to 'Taco-man', to marshmallow dunked 99's in M&M's Cafe, to 'Fine burger' (half pounders) and to 'Moon' fries. 'Here here' to the 'Farmers Market 'and to a general abundance of quality cake. Yes to 'Motion Lotion' (Buckfast mixed with Cider), to lashings of Brandy and to 'Pear Kopperberg'. A thankful yes to sunny weather, to colourful clothes and people. Yes to free 'Lyons' Tea and cadbury flake, to 'Chai Tea' with flapjacks and to 'Mad-hatter's Tea Party'

Sorry but 'No' to knacks with getto blasters banging out 'Scooter' in the campsite. Of similar note, 'No' to some 'illfitting' Oxygen blow-ins. No to lengthy complaining and 'detailing' of toilet experiences. No to lack of bins, lack of showers and at times a lack of sanitation. No to tea shirts entitled; 'IPOOD'. No to penis graffiti art on tents and EP property. No to careless urinating anywhere and everywhere. Yes to some good sober fun; to 'Lucent Dossier', 'Fausset's Circus', to spinning swings, to the outdoor arcade and its fire dancing performers. Yes to choice theatre, art and crafts, to cinema, comedy and 'talk' tents. Yes to the 'turf cottage' and to other santuary chill-out haunts in 'Body and Soul.'

Yes to the 'Temple of Truth' and its symbolic burning, but a big 'No' to “Burn the f*&King thing already” chants from indifferent as said Oxygen blow-ins. Yes to 'Live Food demo's' in 'Body and Soul' with accompanying free sunday roast dinners, barbecue and desserts. Yes to random erupting 'dance offs', to spontaneous 'Tower of London' quicksteps and to strangers random acts of kindness.

No no to incessantly 'loud' and boisterous lager louts at 6am onwards in the campsites. Nay to careless parents with their lost wondering kids. No to wasps descending on Stadbally from across the country. 'No' to long traffic holdups on the friday approach and mud stranded cars on the monday exitous.

Yes Yes to metal clad campsite pavements, Yes to gazebo's equals 'taken' ground. Yes to quality fairtrade, organic and locally produced food, but 'No' (as usual) to excessive food prices and other acts of 'gombeenism'. Yes to underbearing Gardai presence and lack of trouble at the events. Yes to variety, variety, variety, with plenty on offer all weekend. Yes to 'Bodytonic', trance music and 'silent disco'. Yes and 'Oh No' to friction free spending opportunities galore. A resounding 'Yes' to the people, the staff, the performers and the overall spectacle of the 'Electric Picnic'. And finally a big grateful 'Yes' to 'Electric Picnic'; once again worth every dime...

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The things Clinton did not say

A measured response to Hilary Clinton's speech from Michael Tomaskey at 'The Guardian':

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chinese Games: Overall opinion and analysis

You've got to give it to the Chinese, they know how to put on a show!! A spectacular opening ceremony and equally dazzling and epic closing ceremony wowed China and the World. Overseen by renowned director 'Zhang Yimou'; an 'artful','grand' and 'unparalleled' display captivated its audience, China's spectacle clearly signified the ambitions of a nation.

The ceremonies and the buildings showcased the heights of human capacity as well as the level of sophistication with which technology has reached in the 21st century. But in all of this dazzle, we must ask the question; can we separate art and the aesthetic from the moral? Many commentators on the 21st Century have noted how we live in an increasingly schizophrenic world, is this such an example? Can we appreciate the 'esthetic' knowing the circumstances from which it arrose? or should be shun this spectacle, and cynically denigrate this episode of human history? Thus, how should we think about the games?

The Chinese Olympics passed flawlessly thanks to; human rights abuses, the brute willpower and (what seemed like) unlimited financial means of an authoritarian state. Protests around the world ensued prior to and during the games commencement; the argument being that the Olympic Games and its audience had served to legitimise for China the means through which these games came to fruition, as well as the climate from which these games took place. This being a sad case of the end justifying the means. How could we celebrate these games and its grand ceremonies, when to do so; we vindicate, commend and at best only admonish the Chinese State; in turn fueling the internal propaganda accompanying the spectacle and strengthening it's 'Raison d'ĂȘtre'? Was there a better alternative? Perhaps to Shun the games in protest?

Here are some points for consideration:

In the past I've worked with a number of Chinese people and was always struck by the enthusiasm and conviction they displayed for their country, all seemingly assured that China would gain planetary hegemony in the years to come. Though we might argue in the west that such minds have fallen prey to repetitive propaganda and restrained freedoms relative to the west; we cannot ignore that a significant proportion of Chinese felt proud of their country and it's hosting of the games. As millions of Chinese lay glued to their TV, thousands upon thousands contributed to the organisation, performances and hosting in varying capacities. Though a top down approach, success resulted from the hard work of the Chinese people. Overall, it seems we have to acknowledge their allegiance and more significantly; we must acknowledge and commend the fruits of their labour (however misguided we feel they are).

We must also recognise there have been positive as well as the negative consequences for china. For example, Road, air transport and other infrastructures improved greatly for many parts of Beijing and beyond. World class sporting venues were erected of benefit to chinese athletics. The west learned more of China as China learned more of the West. Internet restrictions were laxed during the games in view of visiting journalists, though we must question whether this will last? The world drew focus on despicable human rights abuses in China, as well as ethnic divides among Han, Tibetan and Uyghur factions, will political good come of this? Up to 1.5 million Beijing citizens were evicted from their homes to facilitate construction, authorities initiated hidden and untold human rights abuses in Beijing to ensure the games were a success. Thousands of performers heavily drilled daily for up to 2 years in advance of the games, the mammoth cost of preparation being something they shall not easily forget. It is in times like these that the character of an authoritarian state is revealed to its citizens and to the rest of the world, we may feel saddened and helpless when it occurs but we can only but hope that change can result as a consequence. What seems clear is that we simply cannot predict or direct the unintended positive and negative outcomes which result from the Beijing games, whether the positive will outweigh the negative or vice-versa is a matter of time. To take an extreme and narrow view on this episode of history at this stage would be foolish and unwise.

Overall, what the West can do is to 'lead by example'. 'Acceptance' is key here. Let us acknowledge and commend the Beijing Games. That does 'not' mean we shouldn't cast a critical eye over precedings or that we should be affraid to issue deep concern and advice to the Chinese people; we simply need to work with the system as well as to challenge it. To do otherwise would fuel bitterness and anamosity towards the West from those who 'know no better'. We need to build bridges to affect change not direct distain and blanket criticism.

In all of this, an argument can be made that the games were a real triumph for sport itself. The world celebrating sport and prepared to dedicate so much time, energy and resources serves to emphasis that humanity can trump sport above economic considerations. China's economy wound down for the Olympic games as other values gained prominence. Though we must recognise the increasing economic ties and economic justification with hosting such games, the games and its athletes won the hearts and minds of countless million spectators. They provided 'in themselves' great joy for Chinese people and the world.

Given that I've explicated points for consideration in how we ought to think about the China games, lets return to and reiterate the central guiding question here; how can we appreciate art and the asthetic dimensions of life given the moral and cognitive dimensions to which they are bound? Paradoxically it seems, to dismiss the aesthetic dimension in such a case, 'is' to act schizophrenically. That is to say; to deny or paint our very senses, our innate appreciation for beauty; is to truly become internally turmoiled. It is in recognising our paradoxes that we reconcile our paradoxes. Our appreciation of art does not take away from our moral fibre or our reasoning. Let us feel one thing but to think and speak another, that is what it can be to be human afterall...

See article: 'China's Totalitarian Games' ;

See article; 'The price of the Chinese Olympic Games';,0,4466878.story

See article; 'Beijing Olympics London 2012 handover blow to British pride.' © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Free audio lectures download.

I came across this site several months ago and thought I'd share it! It's a site aggregator for recorded public affairs lectures. There are a few I've listened to thus far which are particularly appealing and which I'd recommend:
1. The Natural State.
2. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature (Very funny too!!!)
3. Darwin Days 2008: Are We Changing Evolution?
4. We-Think: the power of mass creativity
5. The Logic of Life
6. The New Politics of Identity
7. Culture in a time of Waste

The site link follows :


Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Suggested reads: The Agile Gene

The Agile Gene: by Matt Rigley

I suggest anyone with particularly determist views about genes and DNA should carefully read this book. It serves as a compelling counterclaim to the ludicris notion that genes 'determine' your physical and in some ways mental makeup. Essentially the argument put forward in the book, 'The Agile Gene' is that your life, your environment; influence gene expression. Environment triggers active genotypes. Thus, your genes express and are an expression of your mind and environment. Whats interesting is that Rigley's thinking seems consistent with 'the santiago theory of cognition' proposed by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela and the 'conceptual framework' for understanding life proposed by Fritjof Capra in the 'Web of Life'.

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Smoking increases Stroke risk in women, analysis of news coverage!

Today, a flurry of news articles pick up on new research released which purports to 'show' smoking doubles stroke risk in young women, with heavy smokers nine times more at risk of stroke. This is just the latest in what seems like a bombardment of news reports on new research findings claiming to 'find this' or 'that'!

Certainly, as research studies on certain phenomena accumulate with peer 'overviews' undertaken; a better indication and understanding of 'causations' can come about. What's objectionable however, is the rush by news agencies to inadequately report on single research findings without providing accompanying limitations and critical analysis of such findings. Rarely do I see an adequate summary of the method used. The vast majority of readers are not trained in epistemology and the philosophy of science. Is it a case of news agencies (locked in an audience battle) wishing to overlook such realities in order to grab audience figures? Or it it just a case of scrappy and absent minded reporting? Take this latest research on smoking and stroke risk, out of several news articles published today (Reuters, efluxmedia, irishhealth etc), little to no proper analysis of the findings accompanied such research. Thus, here is my take on it:

It does seem compelling that smoking increases 'risk', we can point to the physiological changes such as those noted by Dr. David A. Meyerson from Johns Hopkins University Bayview Medical Center; "Smoking disrupts the cells lining the blood vessels. It increases blood fibrogen levels, which makes blood more likely to clot. It increases the stickiness of platelets, the cells that form blood clots, and it also decreases the body's natural clot-dissolving mechanism." (Meyerson, 2008)

But it is important to note, the research does not indicate whether smoking participants have similar diet and fitness levels to those who do not smoke. Thus, is the overall profile of smokers different to non-smokers? I suspect it could be! The research focuses on age and ethnicity but no other genetic/psycho/socio/environmental factors are mentioned in the reports which would play a role in risk assessment. Overall, the research may certainly indicate smoking increases 'risk', but figures such as 'double' or 'nine' times an increased risk of stroke; are ostensible at best.

For a research paper critically evaluating scientific claims, see

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

How to rake a fortune, comment!

Clive Aslet concludes an interesting article in the Sunday Times Magazine with the words, ' Someone who can devise a crop yielding not only protein (to eat) but ethanol ( to drive the car) and fibre (to make your clothes) while requiring less nitrogen, phosphate and water to grow, will make a fortune. Oh, and save the world too' (Aslet, 2008)

What Aslet failed to consider is that such a crop already exists; Hemp!!

Stupid me!! I'm now realising Aslet was finishing the article with a rhetorical question!

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Analysis of discussion on reintroducing third level fees!

Are we unduly focusing on Government funded education without positioning it amongst wider budgetary constraints?

The discussion on reintroducing third level fees has certainly begun. But has the debate gone wide enough? Are we unduly focusing in on third level education funding without orientating the debate amongst wider budgetary issues?

The discussion on reintroducing third level fees has certainly begun. Over the weekend, Noel Whelan of the Irish Times writes;

'It was also argued then and can be argued even more justifiably now that free third-level education is socially regressive because it requires all taxpayers to subsidise a level of educational attainment which by its very nature will always be enjoyed disproportionately by the wealthier classes'

Colm argued that third level education is disproportionately enjoyed by wealthier classes but we must acknowledge too they disproportionately fund education. Similarly Mark Coleman from the Independent laments that the present system unfairly favours the middle and wealthier classes.

'But the main indictment of abolishing fees was that it never achieved what it was supposed to -- getting young people from low- income backgrounds into college. Ten years after abolition, the profile of third-level students remains strongly middle class.' (Coleman, 2008)

Essentially, back in 1993, restructuring of third level funding away from individual college goers and their families towards the general taxation system took place. Thus now, education is funded through the myriad of taxation mechanisms aimed at individuals and businesses. The 1993 move by the labour party was welcomed as 'visionary' by some, both in terms of lessening the financial burden and additionally in terms of removing the associated psychological barriers which particularly affect lower income categories. It has been deemed a success abeit arguably at the cost of underfunded universities and colleges. Though underfunding can arguably prompt lean, more efficient operations (particularly in terms of bureaucracy), it has been argued that research departments and the standards of undergraduate education have suffered in Irish colleges. There remains, it seems, much room for streamlining and efficiency of Irish educational institutions.

Given recent focus on third level fees, the overriding question remains; how do we ensure optimal equality and access to high quality third level education at the least possible cost? At present, college/university funding largely entails a mixture of 'registration fees', 'local authority grants', government funding on fees, 'inflated' foreign student fees, as well as university fund-raising and philanthropy. From a pragmatic stance we must ask; whether the present system is the most efficent and equitable means of funding third level education? or should we seriously consider a move to individualisation (individualisation being a somewhat hidden political agenda of the FF/PD partnership over the past 10 years, 'indirect taxes' or 'stealth taxes' etc.)? It has been suggested that such a move could draw more money from those on the upper-middle to high income bracket, thus improving university funding and the funding of those from lower income categories. Such a move may entail directly seeking fees from families at a certain income threshold, or implementing a student loan system. Two examples of which include the UK and the Australian systems.

Reflecting on the situation in the UK, it seems to me that there is the real danger (given a move to individualisation) of manifesting new invisible inequalities on certain members classed as middle income households. For example, those classed as upper-middle income, but who possess little discretionary income, may become unfairly burdened by the move. We must also reflect on how the 'idea' or 'notion' of 'free third level education' affects teenagers envisioning further education? In otherwards, there is the suspicion that abolition of fees has eased associated psychological barriers, primarily entailing the pressure to commit to a career path and the financial burden attached. Thus, there is for some, a psychological barrier to entering third-level education attached to the individualisation of university funding. Little to no research exists which attempts to quantify and understand how abolition of fees affects entry levels, such insights should be welcomed prior to a move to fees.

We must also question the real benefit and added costs involved in implementing 'reform'. Colm Harmon, UCD professor of economics and director of the UCD Geary Research Institute, calculates at best raising 100 million from high earners paying fees. A real danger too is that, being a political move; the annual 2bn euro education budget may seriously diminish as a result, with perhaps no transparency in its reallocation. The government currently pays third level fees to the tune of 250 million. Thus, what guarantees do we have with regard to how savings made from the abolition of government funded fees are reallocated? Should we expect increased funding for primary/secondary level? In otherwards, emphasising the long term, will this money remain ring-fensed in education? The reality is that government coffers are being heavily squeezed with ongoing pressure for cuts and savings in all government departments as a result of the well acknowledged economic downturn. O'Keefe (who in some ways instigated a rather brilliant but hard-ball political move) may be rightly focusing national attention on education funding, but we must acknowledge that many government departments currently face funding pressures and shortfalls.

In sum, the debate concerning education needs to be orientated around government finances overall. Thus, if we wish to draw money from wealthier individuals and households in view of financial pressures coming from various government departments (not just education), should we not debate increasing the higher 41% tax band? increasing corporation taxes? Or considering 'individualisation' measures in the form of 'stealth taxes'? Should focus and emphasis not lie instead on stimulating the economy and developing strategies to ensure sound long term fundamentals and a desirable revenue stream? (thus, lowering instead of increasing taxes might be the appropriate policy) Would such measures better benefit education funding and other government funding requirements in the long run? Overall, it seems pertinent to question what are the alternatives to reintroducing fees, which can serve to avoid the political unpleasantaries for all involved?

Importantly, by instigating this debate, discussion on related issues has followed; such that granting better third level access to lower income and disadvantaged groups requires increased emphasis and funding for primary and secondary level education. Scrutiny of the efficency and operations of third level institutions has also resulted from ongoing dialogue.

Finally, the issue is not just one of pragmatics (which some would wish you to believe ) in terms of quantifiable access levels to education and reducing inequality. It is also one of 'percieved' and 'real'; flexibility, choice and freedom in ones education. It is also about theunquantifiable benefits to Irish society as a whole. O'Keefe rightly instigated a debate. Lets just hope such a debate is thourough, insightful and fruitful!

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Food supply, energy and policy

Peter Baker over at the BBC's 'green'room, makes the argument that the sheer 'complexity' of global supply chains conflated with political policies, means we lose sight of the real value of food, it's calorific 'energy' content, as opposed its total energy cost of production, transporting, warehousing, storage and retailing etc. This point (he emphasises), is particularly relevant to 'how informed', trade policies are towards developing nations.

Examples he cites are that it takes 4 times the energy to produce a tomato in the US compared to its energy value. Or that the US dollar paid per amount of Nicaraguan coffee; does not compensate the energy cost of production and processing. Thus nicaraguans are 'subsidising the coffee' for export.

He concluded by emphasising the merits of locally produced and consumed foods, while lamenting the lack of data and metrics which make apparent the situation at present:

''We are intervening, politically and normatively, in very complex systems that we only partially understand. ' (Baker, 2008)

From my own research, I certainly agree with most of Peter's article, but his utilising of 'the second law of thermodynamics' unnecessarily confuses rather than crystallises his main points. The price consumers pay for food certainly reflects the added cost of production, storage, packaging, advertising, retailing etc (many of these entailing white collar 'informational' jobs). We can talk about the added energy all this brings, but is this fruitful? These are all jobs after all, eliminating the middle men has its consequences. Principly, let's not get overly distracted from the core issues; that of producers being given a 'fair' price for their goods, ensuring policies don't favour and subsidise mono-culture (and the associated 'chemical' and 'fertilising' industries), and ensuring bio-diversification by supporting small-scale farming industries and organic practices. Bakers emphasis on the true 'energy' costs of agriculture may well throw a negative light on monoculture, whilst raising awareness about the purity and nutritional value of food may favour organic. These are of course useful in informing policy though they may delay action. My point is that focusing on key policy principles may remedy many of the associated problems of 'energy' costs to which Baker refers. Getting bound up in the energy costs of food-supply can then be avoided.

The reality is that the value of food doesn't lie in its calories alone; it lies in the proportion of nutrients, minerals and compounds, its emotional value, its scarcity value, its shelf-life, its versatility, flexibility and utility in transport, storage, preparation and processing. Thus, the situation is unfathomably complex and it is doubtful that data or metrics could ever satisfactorily illuminate all that is involved (as Baker seems to suggest). Having more information about foods may not be better information. Instead, past experience, sound theory, principle and practice can aid in developing sound normative strategies for influencing the industry. Below I try to elucidate some of the contingencies absent from Bakers article:

The fact remains that current globalised agri-industry's (fertilisation and its synthesis, production, processing, warehousing, transport, retail etc) are inexobably bound up with fossil fuels. Understanding and decoupling this relationship is of key concern. Today, the cost per barrel currently hovers around $115. Projections on future price all point upwards(because of increased demand, peak oil etc.). Fossil fuels embody energy condensed over thousands of years and the price nowhere near reflects this embodied energy. Our way of life, our food supply, is being subsidised by 'ghost acreage' (past energy accumulations) which constantly diminish and become more cost prohibitive to extract (albeit rising prices have thus far opened up the viability of further extractions and alternative energy industries). We must acknowledge steps and adaptations to increasing energy prices: Options available for coping include; innovations and efficency gains in industry and associated relocalising and diversifying of food markets etc, switching to renewables as well as steps such as switching to organic farming practices. Realisically though, steps taken thus far fail to account for an ever rising global population and a concurrant appetite for western standards of living. Fossil fuels have allowed humanity to overshoot the planets carrying capacity and it remains unknown to what degree humanity can adapt.

With such pressures on global food supply, it is my view that we must throw caution and a critical eye to the prevalence and advocation of mono-culture (powered by a fossil fuel economy) and the push for genetically modified crops as a solution. Monoculture; the large scale 'rationalisation of food supply'; means farmers and consumers increasingly rely on key food stuffs and are thus sensitive (particularly in developing countries) to price fluctuations and shortages as a result of weather systems, commodity/future markets and energy prices etc. Monoculture quells biodiversity with associated ramifications. Monculture overly relies on artificial chemicals and fertilisation with uncalculatable hidden and externalised costs to the sanctity of the land, to biodiversity and to humans. Large scale food-production leaves populations susceptible to large scale contamination and disruption of food supply. Globalised food markets, commodity and future trading leave consumers and producers contingent to ever fluctuating global prices.

Similarly, genetically modified foods require extreme caution and temporal-restraint in their trial and implementation. We simply do not know the short-term and long-term effect on the bio-sphere and the impact on the 'web of life'. For example, GM crops 'designed' to grow 'bigger, 'faster' and more plentiful may do so at the expense of the integrity of the soil, plants don't grow in a vacuum!! In addition, we have already seen how corporations attempt to eliminate seeding of plants to leave farmers reliant on companies. There are additional concerns of the cross-contamination of GM crops into non-GM farms with inevitable patent issues and the farm->corporation reliance that ensues. Bio-diversification not monoculture brings resilience and sustainability of food supply. We simply must not be pushed by vested interests or those with incomplete knowledge, into believing Monoculture and GM crops are a large part of the solution to ensuring food supply. Policies which unnessicarily favour mono-culture and GM crops should be deeply questioned.

We must throw (what seems) positive light on the agri industry in terms of the manifold efficiency increases from reformed agricultural practices and new cultivated seed varieties. Innovation in agri-technology and practices as well as efficiencies in logistics, transport, warehousing and distribution of foodstuffs; have culminated in driving down prices and offsetting burdening oil prices. Related to this, is the move to renewable solar, wind and wave technology ( as well as nuclear); meaning we can make srides in replacing our dependance for fossil fuels which additionally helps curbs further increases in energy prices. At issue however, is that the present 'fossil fuelled' economy effectively subsidises the cost of researching and producing these renewables. Research illuminating the connection between fossil fuels and renewables is needed!

Paramount to all of this is 'truth' and 'price' in the market. To what degree does 'price' (undistorted by politics) in the market drive innovation and change in over food supply, farming practices and consumption? Does spiraling food prices drive diversity in food supply? Will increasing food prices drive change in lifestyles, behaviours and outlooks? For example; a rekindling of farm alotments in towns and cities, a curbing of excess food consumption, refocusing attention on the quality and sourcing of food etc. In otherwards, are we already moving to a situation where the 'truer' price of food (unsubsidised by cheap oil and regulated trade) is better reflected? The entanglement with food 'production' and energy prices has always existed in terms of fertilisation, machinery fuel costs etc. The entanglement though, look set to further increase with the advent of bio-fuels and energy price rises. Not only has farming land giving way to bio-fuel crops such as rape seed, palm oil etc. but crops such as wheat, corn and suger cane can now either be harvested for food or fuel. We must also emphasise how rising energy costs affects farming which relies on regular pesticide use, fertilisation and harvesting. This leads to the difficult question; how will increasing energy prices affect food production and food prices? Overall, to what degree will 'price' result in a restructuring of the market towards organic farming practices, bio-diversifiation and relocalisation of food supply? These are all questions which lack clear knowledge to date! I suppose though that rising prices favour a trend.

As already mentioned, 'efficiencies' and reform in the argi-sectors have made substantial differences to the 'cost' of food and the structure of the market. It is my belief that further efficiency gains and changes in practices will further restructure the industry. Information communication technologies (ICT's) have the potential to support and enhance small scale farming practices (including organic) in out-competing large scale mono-culture leading to sustainability of food supply and environment. A win-win, if you will!! Farmers with access to knowledge and assisted in connecting and communicating with other local farmers, producers and consumers; can enhanse bio-diversification and relocalisation of food supply. Small farmers who have easy access to up-to-date relevant information on market prices, long-range weather and product demand, as well as having access to knowledge repositories on relevant farming techniques, suitable crop varieties and the latest research; can flourish. ICT's importantly have the potential for farmers to better co-ordinate and communicate with local suppliers, retailers and consumers. 'Carrot' and 'Stick' policies which support small-scale food producers and artisans are needed in this regard.

As Baker argues, it may no longer make sense to simultaneously import and export high energy embodied food. I contend; policies which support biodiversification and small-scale farming are warranted, efficencies and reform in the agri-sector are ongoing and finally 'consumers', 'the market' and 'price'; invariably may help address disparities in 'energy' flows as they arrise.

For the full BBC article see:

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Heat and humidity can 'clear the mind'?

A recent BBC article entitled; "Bejing heat 'could clear minds'", suggests that research shows higher humidity can result in athletes 'drawing' on mental 'reserves' allowing improved mental performance. In response, a more accurate conclusion may be that 'humidity' forces individuals to adapt by focusing and increasing concentration.

Take for example a recent small study into those who smoke 'weed' before driving. Here, it was found that performance did not diminish but improved primarily because the participating driver remarked that he concentrated and focused more to counteract the effect of the weed. So the weed forced a 'conscious' response as heat or humidity may force such a similar response. Alternatively, it could be argued that heat dampens one's full spectrum of consciousness leaving an individual with a more skewed or focused consciousness, which may be conducive to completing 'single' tasks or 'focused decision making' more successfully.

It must also be noted that if the 'two' hockey players were asked to complete tasks on a treadmill under normal conditions first, it could certainly have skewed results, as players would have been 'primed' to additional decision making when humidity was increased. In anycase, two players seems an extremely small number for testing and there would have to be shown a relatively high 'significant difference' in mental performance to validate results.

Thus, again we find research with knowledge 'claims' which require a degree of skeptisim, research that under testing appears to show two phenomena correlating, but whose explanation for such an 'observed' correlation requires reservation and further testing.

Full article at:

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A response to Michael Caseys Article on Wealth and Values in the Irish Times.

Killing the myth that Ireland's wealth has poisoned its values - a response.

Michael Casey, a former chief economist today wrote an article in 'The Irish Times' entitled "Killing the myth that Ireland's wealth has poisoned its values" in which he attempting to dispel the 'myth' that wealth has poisoned Irish peoples values. In response, he is most certainly correct in believing that wealth cannot 'determine' a societies derision of values, but neglects to paint a clearer understanding of how wealth and values converge. In response, it could be argued that wealth opens the door to new 'negative' value thinking as it can close the door to others. Furthermore, as I will show, some of his own comments in the article require further careful consideration.

Firstly, in defence of Casey's belief that wealth and affluence does not deteriorate values, there is the argument of the rise of post-materialist values (the silent revolution) which has been popularised by Inglehart. It professes a transcendence of material values to that of more ethical and asesthetical values when material needs have been met or are not at issue. This would certainly throw positive light on the values of a wealthy, affluent Irish society. If material well-being is not an issue, other positive values can flourish. Unfortunately, one could argue that material values can be difficult to shake off or avoid, particularly for those who have made the 'transition' to wealthier circumstances. They can remain as a point of reference, a familiar habit, which doesn't necessarily diminish quickly. In addition, it can again be argued that material values are not in themselves illegitimate values, the issue again is the threat of their all pervasiveness. In anycase; material values exist regardless of social class to some degree.

Casey's deriding as (largely) nonsense those puritanical ideas, such that wealth creates commodification (leading to us valuing ourselves and others by what we have); requires further analyses. Casey, through the article, seems to rightly object to determinist thinking (and by use of the term 'puritanical', he also objects to 'blanketed' or 'extreme' outlooks). However, to present money as 'neutral' seems to miss the point that 'money' forces 'action' on the individual. Choices are never unlimited, some people can choose inaction as their response, for others, that choice may not have been 'learned' or may not be an 'option'. People are to some degree constrained by their past, in terms of their knowledge, their experiences, their 'worldview' or 'meta-narrative'. Thus, for some, 'wealth' becomes a causal link to a pervasive commodification of life and the tendency has been for class climbers to fall in this myopic trap. In sum, Casey rightly ojects to negative 'puritanical' outlooks on wealth and values but fails to stress that such concerns are legitimate, albeit overestimated to the extreme.

Of particular interest was his view that money 'doesn't change anybody: it allows people to express their individuality more fully.' Again, this requires further careful elaboration as Casey wrongly seems to imply that 'individuality' is a static entity. People have a tendency to adapt to their circumstance, their environment. Money, manifests a new set of circumstances for the individual and their prior 'self' influences (but does not determine) how they respond. In other words, 'money' may change the individual or it may not. Thus, suggesting as Casey does, that it is unlikely that money will change ones preferences and priorities; 'is' determinist thinking' and out of sync with his general argument.

His belief that a 'keeping up with the Jones' mentality, 'living beyond means', 'inconspicuous consumption', 'expenditure on appearance' and on designer goods; is but due to the speed with which one becomes affluent, seems to me to be an ill fit. Many of these trait are endemic at all societal classes and are a general feature of social life as a result of unshakeable stratification in various facets of life coupled with ones 'worldview'.

It seems to me that a more balanced analysis overall is that wealth can open the door to negative values as it closes the door to others. For example, it can open the door to new forms of hypocrisy and self-righteousness; for example those who can afford to live cleaner and greener lives make veritable but (overall) superficial changes to their lifestyle; such as buying organic and fair-trade though continuing to splurge on every other aspect of their life such as energy in heating and lighting of homes etc. At the same time, they may frown on those without the knowledge or capital to have the same choices. Indifference to the situation of individuals from poorer backgrounds is another poignant example. The standpoint epistemology (or outlook) of individuals from wealthy backgrounds ,means they may not possibly grasp, empathaise or understand the life path and situation of those from unprivileged backgrounds. The same is true at the opposite end of the spectrum.

In addition, Wealth may open the possibility for a pathological emphasis on vanity, status, material wealth. This is not to say that fashion, food and retail are not legitimate forms in the lifeworld, the issue is the all-pervasiveness with which they can take hold of the individual because of the increased availability, ease of consumption and greater pervasiveness of the market into the individuals life, particularly in the absence of little else. In otherwards, wealth can bring the market closer into the individuals life.

Overall, what Casey fails to explore in his article are the issues surrounding capitalism and of in-equality; the pervasiveness of capitalism into modern life (for example advertising, short life cycle of products, shopping as a pasttime) and the rising gap between rich and poor. In a meta-physical vacuum, individuals find meaning in the market and the values of the economic sphere, in science and its methodical reasoning away of the world. The economic sphere triumphs the assigning and 'exchanging' of differential value and worth above all else. The sciences triumph reductionist and narrow empirical based scientific results; attempting to find single causal explanations for everything. These spheres hold values other than love, giving, kindness, friendship as values in them selves. In a scientific-capitalist orientated society, wealth facilitates the integration of individuals into such a way of life. Wealth brings new possibilities and compels choices, not all these will be positive.

Related Link:

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

ISP's partnering with advertisers, what are the issues?

A company called Phorm in alliance with several UK ISP's, has been put under scrutiny by the EU Information Society Commissoner over the legitimacy of tracking web users habits without their consent in order to tailor advertising.

It begs the question; how far are companies allowed to go in monitoring and accumulating user data in order to target users with tailored advertising. Also, to what degree should users be made aware and given choice?

The utilisation of users content and web habits in order to target advertising is nothing new:

1. Google's Gmail service made popular the tailoring of advertising based on customers email content, users must however grant permission for this to take place, by agreeing to the terms of use.

2. The use of third-party cookies by advertisers and associated websites is also nothing new, though legislation in the US, EU and elsewhere requires that users are made aware of what data is being sought and given the option to deny the cookie. This however, may be nothing other than a link to cookie policy on the page of websites. It doesnt necessarily require actively prompting users.

Pressure on ISP's to form partnership with such advertisers has been increasing as competition drives lower prices in the marketplace coupled with ISP's desire for maximum profitability. This is a legitimate economic activity in itself but conflicts with human values outside the economic sphere, values of choice, autonomy and privacy.

The issue here is about giving the consumers the necessary information and the choice of whether to opt into such a service. Not only (in my opinion) should users be alerted with information of which ISP's carry the service, but users should crucially be given a choice with each ISP ;of an opt in or opt out. This is a key point, because as more ISP's form such alliances and in rural areas where ISP's are limited; users may be left with little to no choice of whether to decide. Furthermore, as ISP's will argue that companies such as 'Phorm' subsidise ISP costs, scrutiny by telecom regulators will be crucial to ensure that the 'price difference' in opting out of tailered advertising is a fair reflection on the difference in ISP's profitiability. Again, the issue of choice crops up here as 'cost' may constrain consumer choice: Those of wealthier backgrounds will be able to choose where-as those of lesser financial circumstances may be constrained thus reinforcing stratification. Of course it is worth noting also, that how companies manage and utilise (for what purpose) user data is also of considerable concern here.

Finally, my last point brings us back to services like gmail. Should such companies like Gmail be additionally required to give users the choice of opting in to tailored advertising? as the same issue of choice becomes resonant here! Is this just a question of the need for 'media literacy' skills by adults and an ever younger online population? Ultimately, the issue is about enabling and increasing the capacity for action by individuals, not constraining it! Regulation that seeks to widen choice seems progress to me and this implies a role for governance and regulators as 'silent guardians' of the people! Agree?

For further details, see news article at:

Copyright © 2006-2009 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

New research finds 'Soy' may halve sperm count, what are the possible implications?

New research published finds that even modest regular Soy consumption may half male sperm count. However, empirical evidence has yet to show any link between soy consumption and fertility rates. Thus, there has yet to be shown any negative impact on population as a result of widespread soy consumption. Specifically, research needs to be done into whether Asian men who eat significantly more soy based products are affected with higher infertility rates and whether population levels are affected.

This could become pivotal scientific research: firstly, because with widepread media coverage, it may harm the soy industry; curbing demand for soy and soy based products(though soy only reduces sperm count and does't cause infertility).

Secondly and more significantly, imagine the possibilities and implications of such research: For example, policies impacting developing countries could be influenced by such lines of research. Stabilising world population through favouring the production and distribution of soy products (or food stuffs with similar properties) could be envisioned by such policy makers for underdeveloped or developing countries. Are there other foods which adversely affect sperm count? Could such foods ethically be justified and promoted in developing countries where population growth is a problem? In otherwords, here is a clear example of research with unforeseen and possibly unenvisaged consequences. Can policy makers with an agenda remain uninfluenced when such knowledge comes their way? We are it seems, living in an increasingly complex and contingent 21st century, where the expanding 'production' of knowledge 'claims' requires evermore vigilance and cautiousness.

For a detailed news article, see:

Copyright © 2006-2009 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Lidl calls Tesco product's 'Trash' in Ryanair style advertising blitz!

Over the weekend, Lidl 'Ireland' ramped up the ongoing 'battle of the supermarkets' with an explosive 'Ryanairesque' style advertising campaign entitled; "Don't spend your cash on trash", in direct response to Tesco's recent 'cash savers' campaign and promotions; which attempted to position Tesco products on a similar price footing to that of Lidl and Aldi. The campaign accuses Tesco of selling 'trash' food products, by likening the percentage of key ingredients of some Tesco products with that of Lidl. Lidl argument is that key ingredients such as pork content in sausage meat and fruit in Jams and conserves are noticably higher in Lidl products. Tesco had been attempted to compare 'like for like' its own product line in terms of price, with that of Lidl.
The question which needs to be asked is whether Lidl has severely overstepped the mark in terms of 'attention grabbing advertising' (pioneered in Ireland and elsewhere by 'Ryanair'), have standards in advertising been eroded? Furthermore, what are the implications and repercussions of calling food, 'Trash' being sold by Tesco and other supermarkets?

Certainly, Tesco can counter that regardless of the meat content in such products, they remain 'food' and not 'trash'. Furthermore, in many areas where Lidl and Aldi are not available, shoppers who can only afford to purchase Tesco 'cash saver' items, shouldn't be made to feel that they are buying 'trash' because they cannot afford sausage rolls that are 15% percent higher in meat content than that of similar products. (It is worth noting that even the 27% pork content in Lidl sausage rolls seems extremely low in anycase!) In addition, there is a noticable difference between meat which has (for example) been labeled 80% meat content with that being labeled 80% 'lean' meat content. In otherwords, from my experience; 'meat' can be anything from cartilage, grissle and tissue to animal fat. Thus, there is a separate yet related issue of the 'purity' of the ingredients used. Finally, by focusing on just one ingredient of a product and listing it as superior because of a higher percentage; Lidl is ignoring all other ingredients of a product such as the percentage and kinds of preservatives and flavour enhancers used etc.

Thus, the argument I am making is that Lidl's advertising campaign is crude, possibly disingenous and downright offensive to Tesco, its producers and the people who have no choice but to purchase them! What I would like to see is a supermarket war which focuses on the quality and 'goodness' of the products in their totality rather than on one key ingredient. Even then, I object to food being labeled 'trash' on the grounds of semantics, even though I recognise that some 'value' products are limited in terms of 'purity' and 'nutritional content'. Ultimately, do supermarkets really need to stoop to this level? Will this open the floodgates to supermarkets and companies accusing rivals of selling trash? Who knows, but the next 6 months may be an interesting time in the grocery retail sector if Lidl's campaign is anything to go by!

Copyright © 2006-2009 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Breakthrough in creating cheap hyrogen using solar cell technology

See full article:

The technology crucially relies on the discovery of a catalyst which speeds up and makes more efficent the conversion of water to hydrogen from electricity. All thats needed now is the maturation of hygrogen fuel cell technology.

Whats promising about this new breakthrough technology is that it bypasses the need for storage of hydrogen, which has been a problematic and inefficent affair thus far.

UK deluded over carbon emissions

The UK has for many years prided itself on its progressive policies and economic climate which has been conducive to carbon emissions cuts. However 2 recent reports have highlighted how such claims are based on restrictive calculations and exclude some of the largest culprits of carbon emissions, namely Aviation and shipping.

In addition, the manufacturing sector in many western countries has declined in favour of importing from low-cost countries and thus carbon emissions arrising from such sectors has been 'exported'. At the same time there has been rising levels of consumption with shorter life cycle of products which have increasingly been imported. Because this increasing proportion of imported goods is not subject to carbon emissions calculations by the importer, WWF and others maintain that the present means for calculating a countries carbon emissions is disingenuous.

Overall it means countries such as the UK , who claim to have made significant progress since Kyoto have made nowhere near the total emissions reductions they claim. The UK only in March had reported a 2% reduction on the previous year, on track to meet its 12.5% reduction by 2012 on 1990 levels. It has been suggested that emissions should be calculated for goods based on the country of consumption rather than production and this would in many ways turn carbon emissions calculations on its head. Such thinking certainly have implications for any post-kyoto deal and could improve the situation for developing countries in terms of their responsibility for carbon emissions.

For further details;

Thursday, July 31, 2008

China using advanced technology to fend off rain at Olympics!

An excellent article is found on this at newsweek:

From an environmental standpoint, this idea is appalling!
From a common-sense perspective this idea is bonkers. From a practical standpoint, the idea is unproven and from an overall perspective, this idea is ridiculous! FACT (and not in the chuck Norris sense)

Online community 'concocts' neighbourhood eatery

See the Washington Times article for details:

I'm particularily interested in this venture because of the grassroots nature of organisation and the role of ICT's (through the online community etc.) in bringing this venture to fruition. The Washington Times operationalises the concept of 'crowdsourcing' in describing the phenomenon of ideas and plans being brought to fruition via outsourcing to interested members with specialised expertise (in many cases assisted through information communication technologies), drawing comparison with the principles of the open-source movement. It will in many ways be a novel approach to planning an establishment . Whether the establishment becomes a success (thus living up to the hopes and aspirations of its community of organisers) will be crucial to similar future projects.

Finally, a few observations on the venture:

- Large community input into the project inevidably means that it will become a rather complex venture; in the sense that a raft of ideas and expection of their implementation will be forthcoming. Whether the project can facilitate and appease the input of its members and go on to efficently manage this complexity has yet to be shown.
-As it's become a community venture, the design of the cafe/eatery will most likely have to accomodate its community by adhering to principles of an effective 'Third Place'. Whether this conflicts with this establishment as a business venture and its desired profitability will certainly be of utmost importance.
-Once the establishment launches, It will be interesting to see how ICT's (such as the existing online community aspect) facilitate's its perpetuation as a crowd-sourced project. For example could a service like LastFM be utilised in providing music which represents the members of the venture etc. How will ICT's faciliate communication and co-ordination with local producers such as the 'Artisans' and 'Organic Farmers'. Can online web 2.0 technologies be effectively utilised in the organising and time-tabling of events etc.

Copyright © 2006-2009 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

The robot that wants to be loved..

Im sorry, but what a ridiculous idea both in terms of its creators and its intended audience. A robot that mimics human emotions yet does not possess them.

Full details at:

Is this reification gone mad and is there more of this to come?

A machine is a machine and life is life, why do we wish to blur the lines and atoken machines with qualities they do not possess? I certainly would like to see carefully anchored research which finds some real value in pursuing this expensive use of time, money, people and resources!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cuil, the verdict

Having tryed out the well hyped new search engine 'Cuil', I have a few observations I'd like to share:
-The site has got a raft of publicity in the past few days and expectations have been placed on the success of its searches. Such publicity has inevidably meant that 'innovaters' may be inclined to try out the site.
- My concern is that after using the site, I've found it to be slow and its searches to be less accurate than google.
-I must admit to liking the interface and thumbnail style views of results, but its results lack a number of features which I've come to heavily rely on with google: The prominent example being the suggestion of spelling corrections on search terms. I've also come to use cached pages on occasion which are noticably absent.
- All in all, I've no doubt that Cuil will in time iron out many of its flaws but the publicity machine maybe long gone by then and I wonder why now was chosen as its 'official' launch. It seems an extremely ill advised move in hindsight. Naming the site an explicit 'beta' may have alerted users to the early stages of the project.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mobiles increase cancer risk particularly brain tumors?

Director of leading US cancer institute warned of increased risk of cancer associated with mobile phone use citing a correlation between recent studies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Irelands measure of well being!

Excellent sumation of a recent NCC report on economic success and wellbeing. I particularly am pleased with the use of 'systems' discourse through the article. It is worth noting though that the author distinquishes between 'objective' measures of well being versus 'subjective'. I personally believe the use of the term 'objective' is downright foolish and misapplied. A more appropriate word would be 'institutionally accepted' or 'established norm' etc. I believe (as do many others) that measures of quality of life can be non other than subjective, abeit common subjective at best etc. It's the use of such terms as objective which reproduces widespread belief in 'objective' 'realist' ascertains about QoL.

Copyright © 2006-2009 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

France ends ban on 35 hour work week

I'm saddened by this move, I've always thought one of frances great strenghts was its emphasis on quality of life. I think this is in many ways a step backwards though France are been squeezed by international economic norms.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Great article on health and nutrition

Detailed analysis of western versus chinese diet!

Heating milk makes it tolerable for allegic children

Interesting article because it seems to go against the belief of the 'raw milk co-ops in the states and in parts of europe who argue unpasterised milk can be tolerated better by those allergic to milk products

Information campaigns the better use of government financial resources?

There seems an increased raft of government funded information campaigns concerning issues of health, behaviour, safety etc. A question of whether this is the most 'efficent' use of government resources and an inquiry into alternative means of changing peoples knowledge structures seems highly relevant today! It would be interesting to know the long-term success of many of these campaigns but even more interesting to question whether they are the most effective financial means of instigating longterm change.

SatNav woes

Sat nav woes.

Article detailing the number of crashes from users complete trust in satnav technology, I myself know the feeling having been told to make some dangerous manuveurs against my better judgement from sat-navs. But how can the relationship between humans and these technologies be enhansed? Should it involve education on the part of individual? incorporation of sat-nav's in driver testing whereby sat navs give incorrect directions etc? Or should the answer be better more accurate technology? The answer I suspect lies somewhere in between!

Thursday, July 17, 2008


LastFM have a new user interface! First impressions is that its slower to load and everythings not as neat and compact as before.

Can world faiths achieve harmony

A question posed on the BBC website asks, Can world faiths achieve harmony?

The question itself seems to be ill-fitting as different faith's by their nature are incompatible with other faiths. It's not a question of whether faiths can achieve harmony, its a question of whether people with faith can exist in harmony. Thus, people need to see beyond their faith in seeking reconsiliation, which I guess means a degree of securalism in society is healthy for society.

Erasable ink Paper by xerox

Nice idea though the technology is only at the early stages by the look of it! Im interested in whether the paper graduately erases or does so at a time theshold! Anyway, great idea but its application into mass market use may be slow, xerox will have to build company alliances to bring this to floatation.

Lisbon revote suggested by Sarkozy

Sarkozy remarks on the need for an Irish revote:

The Irish should only be asked to revote on an amended treaty text. I'll be interested to see the degree to which the Lisbon text is amended though if Sarkozy's comments are anything to go by, it appears to be only 'Minor' changes!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

blogging again

Decided to start back blogging again as its been far too lon and my writing skills and mental capacity seems to have regressed rather than improve!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beware of of the Steyn's of this world....

I seldom read editorials, opinion pieces or commentary on people and events these days and my argument and indeed suggestion is for you to do the same! I realised some time ago that to passively do so is to allow others to implicitly and explicitly influence how I think. Go ahead and ask yourselves these questions; Do I want to be another consumer, a vessel, a mouthpiece for other peoples ideas? Do I want to choose what I read to legitimise and reinforce what I think? Do I lazily want others to crystalise for me what I can already know and thus stunt my own capacity for thought? Do I wish to display information about everything but possess knowledge and wisdom of nothing; as I read the thoughts of others with little knowledge of the contexts from which they've arisen or the assumptions and values laden in their words? It seems that for many in the masses; current affairs and politics has become a competitive sport, a pastime for some and for others an expression of their character; it may be ingrained in their identity from early on or it may be a manifestation of their wants (to be more than they are etc.), their insecurities (the need for peer acceptance), and their pathologies ('intellectual narcissim' etc.) Granted that 'yes', as democratic citizens and as individuals who wish their reality to align with the masses; keeping in touch with the issues that affect your life is vital, for a healthy democracy and for an individuals capacity for action. Analysis and opinion are vital for many to gain 'perspectives' and diversity of viewpoints, so as to make decisions for themselves. What I am arguing here is to become acutely aware of those who go beyond giving you the 'facts', who go beyond giving a perspective, that is to say, be very beware of the Steyn's of this world. Be very aware of those who effectively offer-up how and what you should think, be aware of the messages, the preferences, the assumptions or even the agenda's underlying many societal commentators. To demonstrate what I am getting at, below I've provided a brief analysis of just one of Mark Steyn's 'opinion' pieces:

Post 'Post-Racial Candidate'
Things get out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts on the
campaign trail.

By Mark Steyn

  1. 'I'm sure," said Barack Obama in that
    sonorous baritone that makes his drive-thru order for a Big Mac,
    fries, and strawberry shake sound profound, "many of you have
    heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you
    strongly disagreed."

    Well, yes. But not many of us
    have heard remarks from our pastors, priests, or rabbis that are
    stark, staring, out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts.
    all religion is a leap of faith which atheists as well as
    alternative religions would cast as nuts!)
    Unlike Bill
    Clinton, whose legions of "spiritual advisers" at the
    height of his Monica troubles outnumbered the U.S. diplomatic corps,
    Senator Obama has had just one spiritual adviser his entire adult
    life: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, two-decade pastor to the
    president presumptive.
    (Here he is over
    exaggerating Clinton's use of 'spiritual advisor's' and
    under-estimating Obamas for dramatic effect.)
    Reverend Wright believes that AIDs was created by the government of
    the United States — and not as a cure for the common cold that
    went tragically awry and had to be covered up by Karl Rove, but for
    the explicit purpose of killing millions of its own citizens. The
    government has never come clean about this, but the Reverend Wright
    knows the truth. "The government lied," he told his flock,
    "about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against
    people of color. The government lied."

    Does he really
    this? If
    so, he's crazy, and no sane person would sit through his gibberish,
    certainly not for 20 years.
    (Here Mark
    (in few words) appears to use a rhetorical question (where the
    answer is now common knowledge) for the purpose of brushing off the
    Reverend as
    'Crazy' over one
    of his beliefs as well as
    casting off the thousands of his followers as insane and inferring
    that Obama sat through 20 years of what Mark has brushed off as a
    crazy person . The reality is that Obama claims never to have been
    aware of the HIV conspiracy and upon hearing it has described it as
    "off the wall". None the less, many people have 'crazy
    ideas' but to brush a person off based on one could be considered
    morally, socially and politically dangerous. Obama doesn't have to
    agree with every persons ideas in order to be in their company or
    listen to what they have to say. Does buying into one conspiracy
    leave a man out of touch with reality in all other respects? (The
    same could be said for buying into a particular religion)
    Furthermore, should sane people avoid contact with 'insane' people?
    Could it not be argued that by listening to diversity of opinion and
    such 'insane ideas, one can cement or perhaps crystallise one's own
    sane opinions and crucially maintain ones open-mindedness. Should
    Mark not instead be trying to assess fairly the Reverend Wright
    (avoiding casting outright
    of 'crazy person' etc.) and perhaps
    then begging the question of whether Obama has merit in retaining
    his pastor of 20 years given that he holds a conspiracy theory which
    Obama describes as downright 'off the wall'. The debate could then
    move to asking whether Obama has legitimate reasoning in retaining
    the pastor and if not 'Why?')

    Or is
    he just saying it?
    In which case, he's profoundly wicked.
    (Again, the question is used as a
    prop and a sensationalist one at that)

    If you understand that AIDs is spread by sexual promiscuity
    and drug use, you'll know that it's within your power to protect
    yourself from the disease. If you're told
    that it's just whitey's latest cunning plot to stick it to you,
    well, hey, it's out of your hands, nothing to do with you or your
    (Off the cauf remarks
    like this even for commentary seem extremely unwise. Again he's
    opened up a whole line of detailed argumentation without addressing
    any of it in any meaningful way)

    Before the
    speech, Slate's Mickey Kaus advised Senator Obama (???)
    to give us a Sister Souljah moment: "There are plenty of
    potential Souljahs still around: Race preferences. Out-of-wedlock
    births," he wrote. "But most of all the victim mentality
    that tells African Americans (in the fashion of Rev. Wright's most
    infamous sermons) that the important forces shaping their lives are
    the evil actions of others, of other races."
    (no reference given to specific
    Indeed. It makes no difference to white folks
    when a black pastor inflicts kook genocide theories on his
    congregation: The victims (the use
    of the word victim seems ill suited. Does the 'mistake' of believing
    something considered by most as "ludicrous" make you a
    victim? Is the Reverend committing some kind of crime? In holding
    and preaching his ideas?)
    are those in his audience who
    make the mistake of believing him. The Reverend Wright has a hugely
    popular church with over 8,000 members, and Senator Obama assures us
    that his pastor does good work by "reaching out to those
    suffering from HIV/AIDs." But maybe he wouldn't
    have to quite so much
    "reaching out" to do and maybe there
    wouldn't be quite so many black Americans "suffering from
    HIV/AIDs" if the likes of Wright weren't peddling lunatic
    conspiracy theories to his own community.
    that the Reverend could be inadvertently contributing to a higher
    percentage of AID's sufferers in his community without referring to
    any kind of research or evidence that shows a direct link in this
    case or any other, seems extremely unwise. It could be argued from
    his line of thinking that those with less critical minds become
    victims to his style of writing where numerous explicit and implicit
    opinions and assumptions are conveyed throughout his

    Nonetheless, last week, Barack
    Obama told America: "I can no more disown him than I can disown
    the black community."

    What is the plain meaning of
    that sentence?
    (It is unwise to try and
    separate a sentence from the specific context and passages from
    which it is given. Senator Obama was trying to convey his value
    preference for a more holistic way of viewing people (that been
    accepting and encompassing), perceived flaws and all. Thus, should
    Mark be asking such a question? He goes on to use the question to
    propel the second question:)
    the paranoid racist ravings of Jeremiah Wright are now part of the
    established cultural discourse in African-American life and thus
    must command our respect? (
    verges on a
    rhetorical question
    ) Let us take the senator at
    his word
    (The sentence carries the
    connotation that there may be times when he shouldn't be taken at
    his word)
    when he says he chanced (???)
    not to be present on AIDs Conspiracy Sunday, or God Damn America
    Sunday, or U.S. of KKKA Sunday, or the Post-9/11
    America-Had-It-Coming Memorial Service. A conventional pol would
    have said he was shocked, shocked to discover Afrocentric black
    liberation theology going on at his church
    . (It's
    also a case that Senator Obama would not have had the choice of
    distancing himself from it)
    But Obama did something far
    more audacious (the use of the word
    which is defined from daring to reckless is presumptuous and is a
    detailed line of inquiry in itself)
    : Instead of
    distancing himself from his pastor, he attempted to close the gap
    between Wright and the rest of the country, arguing, in effect, that
    the guy is not just his crazy uncle
    (has the effect of drawing close
    connection between Obama and Wright)
    but America's,

    To do this, he promoted a false equivalence. (He
    doesn't appear to have proven a false equivalence)
    can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he
    continued. "A woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed
    again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves
    anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of
    black men who passed by her on the street." Well, according to
    the way he tells it in his book, it was one specific black man on
    her bus, and he wasn't merely "passing by." When the
    British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dumped some of his closest
    cabinet colleagues to extricate himself from a political crisis, the
    Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe responded: "Greater love hath no
    man than to lay down his friends for his life." In
    Philadelphia, Senator Obama topped that: Greater love hath no man
    than to lay down his gran'ma for his life
    . (good
    point and well delivered)
    In the days that followed,
    Obama's interviewers seemed grateful for the introduction of a less
    complicated villain: Unlike the Reverend Wright, she doesn't want
    God to damn America for being no better than al-Qaeda, but on the
    other hand she did once express her apprehension about a black man
    on the bus. It's surely only a matter of days before Keith Olbermann
    on MSNBC names her his "Worst Person In The World." Asked
    about the sin of racism beating within Gran'ma's breast, Obama said
    on TV
    (what exactly was asked? A
    quotation would be helpful here!!)
    that "she's a
    typical white person."

    Which doesn't sound like the sort
    of thing the supposed "post-racial" candidate ought to be
    saying, (
    good point) but
    let that pass. How "typically white" is Obama's
    grandmother? She is the woman who raised him — that's to say,
    she brought up a black grandchild and loved him unconditionally.
    Burning deep down inside, she may nurse a secret desire to be Simon
    Legree or Bull Connor, but it doesn't seem very likely. She does
    then, in her own flawed way, represent a post-racial America.

    (more accurately, she may represent
    the transition period to a post-racial America)
    But what
    of her equivalent (as Obama's speech had it)? Is Jeremiah Wright a
    "typical black person"? One would hope not. A century
    and a half after the Civil War, two generations after the Civil
    Rights Act,
    the Reverend Wright promotes victimization
    theses more insane than anything promulgated at the height of
    (again, this
    opens up a whole line of detailed enquiry to ascertain a conclusion)

    or the Jim Crow era
    . You can understand why Obama is so anxious
    to meet with President Ahmadinejad, a man who denies the last
    Holocaust even as he plans the next one. Such a summit would be easy
    listening after the more robust sermons of Jeremiah Wright.

    America is not Ahmadinejad's Iran. Free societies live in truth
    (infers that there is absolute and not
    relative truth and assumes there is such thing as a 'free society')
    not in the fever swamps of Jeremiah Wright. The pastor is a
    fraud, a crock, a mountebank — for,
    if this truly
    were a country whose government invented a virus to kill black
    people, why would they leave him walking around to expose the truth?

    (Again he pitches his propaganda that
    Jeremiah Wright's preaching increases the contraction of HIV in his
    community. He does this in a rather cruel way and at this stage in
    the article has effectively gone beyond the bounds of public
    character defamation).
    It is Barack Obama's choice to
    entrust his daughters to the spiritual care of such a man for their
    entire lives, but in Philadelphia the
    senator attempted to
    universalize his
    peculiar (personal
    judment that the judgement is peculiar)

    judgment to
    claim that, given America's history, it would be unreasonable to
    expect black men of Jeremiah Wright's generation not to peddle
    hateful and damaging lunacies. Isn't that — what's the word? —
    racist? So much for the post-racial candidate.
    could be counter-propositioned that Obama was placing men like
    Jeremiah Wright in historical context by highlighting how the
    cultural and political climate in which they grew up had a pervasive
    influence on the ideas which such men hold (however flawed they
    appear to us today). His pitch is that it would be divisive to
    disown such men at a time when we need unity. This appears a
    pragmatic judgement but it could also be an idealist assertion about
    human values etc., etc.

    © 2008 Mark Steyn

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.