Archive | September 2012

Architects of their Own Downfall: Republicans, Romney and Fox

There are mere days to go before Barack Obama and Mitt Romney go head to head in the first of the US presidential election debates. One would think that the respective campaigns are gearing up to duke it out, stepping out toe to toe as rhetorical pugilists in an effort to secure the kingmakers of the American political system, those undeclared voters in the middle of the American political spectrum. Only 4 years ago, I would stay up to the wee hours to watch presidential debates, swept up by the Obama machine, it was genuinely exciting and interesting. This race though would appear to be as good as over before it really got going.

Obama has recently been dubbed as ‘The luckiest dude in the world’ by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and for good reason. Mitt Romney’s campaign has lurched for one disaster to another culminating in a piece of footage being released which would put the best work of Armanndo Iannucci and Chris Morris to shame. In this video the former Governor for Massachusetts successfully alienated even more of the American electorate and joked about how being Latino would have helped his race to the White House. The content of this video has been picked apart in sufficient detail since it surfaced and it is not the purpose of this blog to rehash this material. Let us instead look at how Romney’s campaign had begun to unravel before the video was leaked and the wider reasons underpinning this.

As stated above Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts and in his 4 years in the Governors mansion he presided over a series of policies and political stances which are very much at odds with the policies he is putting forward as the Republican candidate. Perhaps the biggest of these is the universal healthcare bill he introduced and brought to realisation. Since he has entered the presidential race one of the key tenets of his campaign, indeed one of the only concrete things he has said he will do if elected, is to dismantle ‘Obamacare’. Other stances on which Romney has done a 180 are his calls for more gun control, and his policies on abortion.

It would appear that this is a man who will say just about whatever it takes to win and to swing from a socially liberal fiscal conservative to a 100% dyed in the wool conservative Republican. Romney’s campaign is falling apart and Obama is going to be re-elected whilst having the worst unemployment rate of any incumbent president. When you look back at some of the other contenders for the GOP nomination, nutters like Santorum, Perry, Bachman and Cain, you realise that Mitt Romney really was the lesser of several evils. The majority of those nominees came from the loony libertarian right embodied by the Tea Party. It is the Tea Party and Fox News that have morphed Mitt Romney into the flip flopping caricature we see before us today.

The advent 24 hour news coverage means there is an awful lot of time that needs to be filled, 24 hours to be exact. The style, or perhaps brand is a more appropriate word, of news sold by Fox seems to rely on a heady mix of hysterical presenters shouting about red button doomsday topics. The majority of these topics seem to be very close to the heart of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party itself is a movement, shrouded in thinly veiled racism of the ludicrous ‘birthers’, which is a hotchpotch of conservatism, libertarianism and ‘whoever-can-shout-the-loudestism’. The Fox News Network gave a huge amount of coverage and tacit support to this movement. They made the issues of the Tea Party the issues of Fox viewers. This can be the only reason why the GOP had such a collection of bonkers candidates in the running for their nomination. The candidates were either forced to appeal to the support of the Fox shouty head pundits or run the risk of their campaign dying from a lack of publicity. Romney stood out as the most reasonable candidate up for nomination, which is some feat for a Mormon venture capitalist.

Mitt Romney was right when he stated that there is a chunk of the population that will vote for Obama no matter what; just as there is a chunk of the American public that will vote Republican now matter what. The battle for presidential elections in America has always been a straight out battle for those in the middle who will base their decision on the policies and record of the candidates. Obama has had an incredibly tough 4 years and as stated above the unemployment figures will be the highest of any incumbent President. Romney hasn’t even laid out his policies, instead is relying on the American public to elect him and once he is in the White House he’ll tell them what he’ll do. It would seem that his economic policies are similar to birthday wishes in that if he told us what they were they wouldn’t come true.

The attack dog for the Republican Party, Fox News, is making it impossible for the Republicans to win an election. The agenda set by Fox has forced Romney to flip flop on many issues and ultimately throw away a very winnable election.


Handling Images in the Digital Age.

Legal representatives of the British Royal family have pursued action in French courts due to the publishing of naked images of one of the most recent people brought into their fold. The first steps of this legal move resulted in (as reported by the BBC News website):

  • A court in Paris ruled the publishers of Closer must hand over the original photographs within 24 hours or face a daily fine of 10,000 euros (£8,000).

Before actually taking on board the above statement I think a necessary digression is in order.

Since the horrific chain of events which ultimately led to the death of Diana Spencer there is, understandably,  an obvious sensitivity surrounding paparazzi and her surviving children. However, gradually the media have gone to great lengths to attempt to recapture the public obsession surrounding Diana with her son William and more importantly his wife Kate Middleton. The media frenzy surrounding their wedding is evidence enough. The machine grinds on.

True to form, the peddlers of celebrity snap shots (and what a service they provide the world) have yet again crossed the line – thankfully nothing like the aforementioned tragedy – which separates mutually beneficial publicity from what is deemed inappropriate and boy is that a fine line. The recent ‘topless’ images of Kate Middleton have caused all sorts of outcry from Royalists and the like. I won’t delve into why the backlash is so much more severe when it comes to images of a princess – I even shudder at typing the word –  when compared to a ‘regular’ celebrity. That’s a whole other topic of discussion which ultimately revolves around class in society. However, I’ll go on the record and suggest that no one deserves the unwanted attention of paparazzi, and it is indeed distasteful for them to be harassing the family of a woman who died indirectly due to their pursuit, but I also think that this reaction to a topless image of someone who benefits from media attention in the same way as other celebrities who are victims of this extreme voyeurism is certainly disproportionate. Either condemn all voyeuristic, opportunistic pictures of celebrities equally or keep schtum. Kate Middleton is not deserving of special treatment in this regard. It should be one rule for all. She should have no more or less rights than the average Joe.

Getting back on topic. The quote above clearly states that the publishers of the image have to hand over the ‘original photographs’ . Consider that instruction. Assuming the images were digital – which I think is a fair assumption to make in 2012 – you have to wonder what exactly qualifies as the ‘original photographs’? Was it the first digital files saved on the camera? The transferred files from the camera to the computer? The first email with the images attached to it that was sent to Closer? The one of doubtless many emails circulated within the confines of Closer headquarters? Also, how does one go about handing over these originals? Forward an email to the legal team? I think I’ve made my point. This seems like an exercise in futility. If they were printed images with negatives attached this order would make sense but in the digital age it’s almost laughable.

I’m sure all of this will rumble on with continued cries of outrage at the nerve of a French magazine to publish such images of a royal for the foreseeable few days – maybe weeks – but I don’t think this court ruling can be considered a victory since it makes little sense and will have virtually no impact. After all, the images are only a Google click away now and I doubt they fall under the definition of being the originals.

Ireland, our cream has turned sour

Galway is a much nicer place to be in the summer months. It is on the west coast of Ireland, so it is not because of the weather, nor is it a result of the increase in cultural celebrations and events (although, it must be said, that does help). The reason is simple: the students have, for the most part, gone home. They have absconded back into the arms of their doting parents who will once again cater for their every need.

Now that September has rolled around once more though, the inhabitants of the city will again be forced to endure the naïve and idiotic actions of a group of adults who, equipped with loans, grants and their parents’ money, have granted themselves a license to lead a hedonistic, irresponsible and ludicrous lifestyle for the next nine months at least.

This is how many parents imagine their children at university.

First come the ‘Freshers’. As the label suggests, these are the fresh-faced, wet-behind-the-ears kids that have left home for the first time with the noble aim of bringing their education to the next level. Or so it seems. It is an exciting time, no doubt, for those who do manage to fly the nest and into the world. But don’t be fooled – they are anything but noble. And while they may be fresh, they are certainly not refreshing, for each year, the wave of bodies that follows is as dull, stale and predictable as the last.

Then you have the rest. The second years, last year’s ‘Freshers’, who strut around campus unwilling to stifle the desire to re-live the ‘glory’ of the previous year, spurred on by the empty qualifier that “nothing matters until final year anyway”. The final years, who know that they should behave better for the sake of their degree, but find themselves drawn in by the allure of the craic and reassured by the 40 per cent safety net that ensures a pass.

This may be closer to the truth of many a student’s lifestyle.

Engorged on alcopops, spirits, cheap cider, and who knows what else, grown men and women stumble and stagger from their glorified chicken coops and into the heart of the city, so that they can treat their eardrums to an aural assault, while attempting to dance in a dimly lit room. People actually pay money to enter these darkened cattle markets. Don’t ever forget that.

Taxi drivers have the front row seat as the inebriated entities are hurriedly ushered from establishments and the regurgitated spectacle unfolds. Pavement bedecked in multicoloured bile and other bodily fluids, men attempt to impress the high-heeled ladies that struggle to string together so much as a pace. Fights break out, food and rubbish find their home next to the splattered puke and the police attempt to make their presence felt. “They’re out every night of the week,” an affable taxi driver assures me. “You’re thinking, ‘do you do any reading at all?’”

The truth is, they don’t have to. Their recklessness, their gung-ho partying and complete lack of studying does not matter, for university lecturers will hand them grades on a plate. No one likes to see those pass-rates dwindle, after all.

Naturally, this horrific binge culture is not confined to the halls of student residence. It is a widespread ailment that has (always?) gripped wider Irish society (see blog by finishedatlast ), but it cannot be denied that among students, going to college carries with it an expectation to party. Indeed it is viewed as a rite of passage.

This is the future of Ireland. The cream of our crop has turned sour.

Special thanks to Thom Wilcockson for his fine male modelling.