Monday, February 7, 2011

Why it's time for business and politics to get back together

Ryanair's Michael O'Leary took a typically abusive verbal swipe at transport minister Noel Dempsey last week. Nothing new in that, of course, but it does draw attention to an ever widening gulf between business and politics which would have been inconceivable 20 years ago.
It is something that concerns some of Backroom's more reflective colleagues. There was a time when businesspeople were willing to be active in politics and seen as such. Not surprisingly, most of these were involved in Fianna Fail, Fine Gael or the PDs.
While some were out to further their own interests through schmoozing in places like the famous Galway Races tent, many more were engaged through a form of civic duty and belief that, if they talked to politicians, more business-informed government policies and a stronger economy might result. This applied to parties whether they were in government or opposition and was a benefit to all.
It's not as if our politicians don't need advice from the coalface of enterprise .Not a single Fianna Fail member of the government has mainstream business experience, although, to his credit, Eamon Ryan from the Greens ran a successful cycling tourism venture in the past.
Those whispering in the ears of our ministers are hardly any better. While every public service reform scheme since the mid-1990s has proposed greater movement between senior civil servants and the private sector so that our mandarins can get 'real world' experience, in fact there has been almost none. The civil service remains gloriously insulated from cold winds.
The retreat of business from politics has also weakened the representative nature of the Dail. There are fewer members with the experience and insight of running a business coming into politics. John McGuinness of Fianna Fail was a rare exception, but his relatively brief junior ministerial career in the Department of Enterprise crashed in flames earlier this year and he made his views clearly known on how government and business could work better.
Since so many of our elected politicians do not come from business, then a business input to them becomes more important.
Close dialogue between the enterprise sector and politics brings benefits to both. For business, it is ensuring that politics understands what is needed to create wealth. For politics it is the knowledge that discussions and decisions are informed by the expertise of those active in the front line of the economy.
But businesspeople have become afraid of politics and politicians. Tribunal revelations of political corruption have led many of them to stand back, out of fear of taint by association.
Now, when they need to interface with politicians, they use intermediaries from PR and public affairs companies.

Data from D. Gavrielynuri et al Provide New Insights into Language and Politics

"This article offers a preliminary and partial mapping of some cultural misconceptions inherent in the Israeli peace discourse," scientists in Jerusalem, Israel report.
"It focuses on one of the central mythic metaphors belonging to this discourse: ''We extend our hand in peace.'' First articulated in ''The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel'' (1948). After more than six decades of endless repetition in speeches made by Israeli political leaders, the metaphor has become a fertile arena for learning about Israel's cultural codes and cultural heritage relating to peace: While expressing the sincere will to make peace, use of the metaphor simultaneously demonstrates moral superiority, feelings of deprivation, latent threat, and recognition of its efficiency for creating a positive image abroad," wrote D. Gavrielynuri and colleagues.
The researchers concluded: "A discursive analysis of the metaphor reveals four barriers to the effective continuation of a peace process: Images of the Arab opponent, Israel's self-image, relationships between opponents in addition to the opponents' readiness to achieve peace."
Gavrielynuri and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Language and Politics (If both opponents ''extend hands in peace'' - Why don't they meet? Mythic metaphors and cultural codes in the Israeli peace discourse Journal of Language and Politics, 2010;9(3):449-468).
For additional information, contact D. Gavrielynuri, Hadassah College, Jerusalem, Israel.
The publisher's contact information for the Journal of Language and Politics is: John Benjamins Publishing Company, PO Box 36224, 1020 ME Amsterdam, Netherlands.

New Politics and Gender Study Findings Recently Were Reported by Researchers at University of Kansas falseAnonymous.

"Social scientists are increasingly taking a more complex theoretical approach to the role of stereotyping in the electorate's evaluation of political candidates. Within this literature, most studies investigate the impact of one stereotype on the public's evaluation of candidates from an underrepresented group," investigators in the United States report.
"We build on and extend this literature by exploring what we term ''intersectional stereotyping'': The role of stereotypes in shaping the electorate's evaluation of political candidates who share dual membership in stigmatized groups women and sexual minorities. We empirically examine the impact of intersectional stereotyping in a unique 2003 survey of national adults. Our results indicate that gender, both of the respondent and the candidate, plays a key role in shaping attitudes toward gay and lesbian political candidates," wrote A.E. Doan and colleagues, University of Kansas.
The researchers concluded: "That intersectional stereotyping plays a nuanced role in evaluations of candidates; in certain contexts gender stereotypes are more significant, and at other times stereotypes about sexual minorities appear to be driving evaluations of candidates."
Doan and colleagues published their study in Politics & Gender (The Role of Intersectional Stereotypes on Evaluations of Gay and Lesbian Political Candidates. Politics & Gender, 2010;6(1):63-91).
For additional information, contact A.E. Doan, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, USA.
The publisher of the journal Politics & Gender can be contacted at: Cambridge University Press, 32 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013-2473, USA.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


TOMMY Sheridan's solicitor Aamer Anwar claimed hackers tried to get into his phone before the politician's perjury trial.
The lawyer will ask police today to investigate whether the News Of The World were involved.
Anwar has also instructed a London solicitor to begin court proceedings in a bid to identify the hacker.
Yesterday, Anwar said he was called by Vodafone before Sheridan's trial to warn him that an attempt had been made to access his messages.
Security It is understood the lawyer was the victim of a failed "blagging call" - an attempt to trick his phone company into giving out his security PIN number to a third party.
If successful, the hacker could have listened to Anwar's voicemails.
The alleged incident happened before the start, last October, of Sheridan's trial for comitting perjury during his successful defamation case against the News Of The World.
During the trial, Sheridan called the paper's former editor Andy Coulson as a witness.
When he took the stand Coulson, who quit the paper over the hacking scandal, insisted he was unaware of the phone scam being used during his time in charge.
But he recently quit as Prime Minister David Cameron's chief spin doctor as more evidence of widespread hacking at the paper emerged.
Anwar's lawyer Mark Lewis said his client had drawn up a list of 20 highprofile Scots, including celebrities, politicians and sports stars, who believe their phones have been hacked.
Yesterday, former MP George Galloway claimed he had been offered "substantial sums of money" by the News Of The World after his phone was allegedly hacked.
Galloway is demanding damages from the newspaper after police found evidence that his phone had been tapped.
Galloway told BBC1's Politics Show: "I began a civil action for breach of privacy. I have a court date some months hence. The News Of The World are busily offering me substantial sums of money."
Reports say around 3000 people may have had their phones hacked.

It's not just fashion week showing girls mean big business

The walls of Stormont Parliament Buildings are well used to hearing the sounds of voices but usually in the debating chamber and not the Long Gallery. However, Women in Business recently held an event there called Voices Heard.
Alliance MLA Anna Lo was our host and, as a great supporter of all communities, she is also very keen to get more women involved in politics. The speakers on the day came from many walks of life -- Tracey Hamilton from Mash Direct, Christine Boyle of Lewall Construction, Prof Yvonne Galligan from Queen's University and Lesley Hogg of AES, the company that owns Ballylumford and Kilroot Power Stations.
Each panellist gave a brief outline of how they developed their businesses and then it was opened to the floor.
Naturally when you get a group of women in a room together they are not stuck for words. The question-and-answer session was very informative and will have given a lot of the ladies the impetus to go further in their careers.
I know I am making a sweeping generalisation but you don't normally expect to find a bunch of bikers hanging around in the gloriously sumptuous surroundings of the Merchant Hotel (well apart from Jeremy McWilliams), but that was the location for the announcement that Relentless Energy Drink is backing the NW200 for the next two years, something technical director Mervyn Whyte was pleased to announce.
This event attracts in the region of 100,000 people each year to the north coast and I do my best not to miss it. The Coleraine and District Motor Club's carnival this year starts on May 15 with race day on May 21. Michael Rutter loves the NW200 and has won 12 races at it. No doubt he will be returning along with the fantastic crop of local riders we have coming up through the ranks.
I have to admit that the thought of a lot of men wandering around the north coast in leathers does attract a lot of ladies, but that works both ways. The thought of a lot of ladies strutting their stuff also attracts a lot of men and the West Coast Cooler Fashionweek is now no longer just the preserve of the ladies, especially as online store The Undie Factory will have a sexy and stylish range of men's underwear on show.
This year's Spring Event takes place from March 9 and with the attraction of Miss Universe Ireland Roz Purcell being the face of Fashionweek it will be another of this year's hot events and I for one have my place booked for the Style Sunday final event in James Street South.

Clash proves directionless politics

The clash between supporters of the JMM and the Trinamool Congress at the Birsa Munda airport on Monday which later spilled into the streets indicated that political parties in the state have lost direction..
Armed with black flags, the JMM workers first clashed with the Trinamool supporters who were at the airport to receive their MP K D Singh, who was scheduled to arrive in the afternoon in a chartered flight, and in the process of chasing them they ran amuck on the adjoining streets creating panic among residents and commuters there.
The protesters then targeted public transports and private vehicles breaking glasses of three-wheelers loaded with passengers. Several people, including three wheeler drivers, were hurt in the clash. "The fight is between the JMM and the Trinamool. Why are we being harassed," asked a passenger. Their voices of protest were, however, greeted with abuses and expletives by the workers. The JMM was venting its ire against Singh who won the Rajya Sabha seat on a JMM ticket and crossed over to the Trinamool recently.
The Doranda police and the CISF both were present during the clash, but no case has been registered against the protesters nor has there been any arrest.
"We had resorted to a peaceful and democratic form of protest and there was no violence," said Supriyo Bhattacharya, the JMM spokesperson. "No case has been lodged against the workers which proves that here was no violence," he said blatantly despite video footage and photographs showed the hour-long rampage.
According to Bhattacharya, the MP's aircraft circled over Ranchi airport but failed to land after he was told of the clashes down below.
Singh, however, told a local news channel over the phone that he was the representative of Jharkhand in Parliament and wanted to serve its people. He said on receiving reports of violence between the workers of the two parties he contacted senior police officers who advised him not to come to Ranchi as this would evoke more protests.

Exit the Israel alibi

The Arabs are making the big shift from the culture of victimhood to one of self-empowerment.
One way to measure the immense distance traveled by Arabs over the past month is to note the one big subject they are not talking about: Israel.
For too long, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the great diversion, exploited by feckless Arab autocrats to distract impoverished populations. None of these Arab leaders ever bothered to visit the West Bank. That did not stop them embracing the justice of the Palestinian cause even as they trampled on justice at home.
Now, Arabs are thinking about their own injustices. With great courage, they are saying "Enough!"
The big shift is in the captive Arab mind. It is an immense journey from a culture of victimhood to one of self-empowerment, from a culture of conspiracy to one of construction. It is a long road from rage to responsibility, from humiliation to action.
The Muslim suicide bomber aims fury at a perceived outside enemy. Self-immolation, the spark to this great pan-Arab uprising, betrays similar desperation, but directed inward. The outer scapegoat is replaced as the target by the inner Arab culprit.
Change won't come overnight, and won't be without pain, but Arabs have embarked on it -- and the United States must support them without equivocation. Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, is finished: It is only a matter of time. No wonder the Obama administration is calling for an "orderly transition."
Sure, there is risk. There always is in change. But nothing in the Arab genome says democracy, liberty and plain decency are unattainable.
Remember, Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attack, came from Hosni Mubarak's Egypt. The vast majority of Atta's henchmen came from another U.S.-backed Arab autocracy, Saudi Arabia. They did not come from Iran. They did not come from Lebanon -- or Gaza.
President George W. Bush was right in 2003: "As long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place of stagnation, resentment and violence ready for export." And Condoleezza Rice was right to note that the U.S. promotion of "stability" -- read autocracy -- had allowed "a very malignant, meaning cancerous, form of extremism to grow up underneath."
Bush and Rice were also, however, the authors of the Iraq invasion. This destroyed their credibility on Arab liberation. Their Middle East democracy agenda went nowhere. But, self-generated, it remains the right goal.
A 2008 study by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center found that 60 percent of Al Qaeda in Iraq fighters were of Saudi or Libyan origin: the handiwork of those alibi-seeking Arab despots again.
I spoke of risk. Egypt is not Tunisia, it's the epicenter of the Arab world, self-styled "mother of the world," a supporter of U.S. interests, a big nation that has made a cold peace with Israel. The direction it now takes will be pivotal to the region.
The arguments of those who say, "Better the devil you know" are already clear. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel-prize-winning Egyptian opposition leader, has immense stature but no organization. The Muslim Brotherhood, Islamist Israel haters, will fill any void. Look at what Arab democracy brings: Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and chaos in Iraq! You want that in Egyptian guise?
These arguments are facile, as Tunisia, with its very un-Islamic revolution, has just demonstrated, and Turkish democracy shows, and Egyptian restraint suggests. They only perpetuate Middle Eastern dysfunction. They ignore America's sway over Egypt's Army as a critical moderating force -- and ElBaradei's rapid emergence as unifier.
Yes, Iraqi democracy is messy, but will prove healthier than Saddam Hussein's tyranny. A Hezbollah-backed prime minister just came to power in Lebanon, but through a constitutional process -- and life goes on. The Palestinian stab at democracy has proved divisive but also produced in the West Bank precisely the move from a culture of victimhood and paralysis that other Arabs are now following.
Indeed, with its fast-growing economy and institution-building the West Bank is an example to the dawning Arab world -- and would be more so if Israel helped rather than blocked and hindered.
Nothing good can get built on the false foundation of Arab absolutism with its decades of waste: That's the irrefutable argument for change.
Images of Cairo 2011 plunge me back to Tehran 2009, when another repressive Muslim -- but not Arab -- nation stood on a razor's edge. Henry Precht, an author and former U.S. diplomat, has pointed out some differences: 40 percent of Egyptians make less than $2 a day, far more than in Iran; Iranian women are far more present in universities; literacy is higher in Iran, the fertility rate lower. As Precht writes, "Iranian politics, though badly flawed, offers more elements of democracy than Egypt's."
These are perhaps some indices of why the Islamic Republic proved more resilient than Mubarak's Egypt seems today. Still, Iran's paranoid rulers will shudder at Egyptian people power.
A representative Egyptian government -- the one whose birth pangs I believe we are witnessing -- will talk about Israel one day and may be less pliant to America's will. But it would carry a vital message for Arabs and Jews: Victimhood is self-defeating and paralyzing -- and can be overcome.