Category Archives: Braindead

Broadcasting ignorance

This week, TV broadcasts in Spain ceased to be analogue, and DVB-T is the only method used now. For a short period of time, the State authority managing TV broadcasts (Ministry of Industry) will be displaying a message, on the old analogue UHF channels, to remind audiences that they need to switch to DVB-T in order to continue watching TV programs.

The message says: TDT_VisualizaciónLa programación de TV Analógica ha dejado de emitirse por este canal. Puede seguir visualizando este programa por TDT.“, which translates to: “Analogue TV programming broadcasts have ceased on this channel. You may continue to visualize this program on DVB-T.”

The text is incorrect and this is very serious, as lots of people learn to use the language from what they see on TV. The poor ignorant who wrote that text (and everyone else involved in displaying it on TV) meant to say “…you may continue to watch this program on DVB-T”. To “visualize” something is very different from “watching” it. To “visualize” means to represent in visual form some information which cannot otherwise be seen (a yearly rainfall graph, for instance). TV programming can be watched directly without the need to “visualize” anything.

This is a great display of poor management (it seems no one double-checked the text) and poor education (no one was able to properly write the text). Moreover, it shows complete disrespect for the language; this broadcast with the erroneous usage of the verb “to visualize” will further worsen many Spaniards’ utilization of the Spanish language, and this time (like many other times in the past), it is State-promoted. It is worth noting that many journalists in Spain (on TV and printed media) also say “to visualize” when they mean “to watch”. It is regrettable and it is demoralizing.

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Weak democracies

Scotland freed one of the Lockerbie bombing terrorists a couple of days ago, on ‘humanitarian’ grounds. The Scottish authorities are dumb. If the guy was jailed for killing over 200 people, he wasn’t very ‘humanitarian’ to others, was he?. Then, why free him on ‘humanitarian’ grounds? Why treat humanely someone who showed no humanity? Healthy or ill, the criminal is a criminal, and if he was senteced to life in jail, it is wrong to release him just because he is ill.

This is just another sign of the weakness of modern democracies.

Language choice in Galicia

The regional government of Galicia distributed a questionnaire among parents of schooled children. The goal is to find out parents’ preferences about which language (Spanish or Galician, or a mix) to use for teaching in school, to later design the “future language policies for elementary and secondary education in Galicia.”

The questionnaire had to reach parents directly, but a group called “galician coalition of linguistic normalization and dynamization” (CGENDL in Galician) has attached a letter (in Galician) to the questionnaire to mold responses in favor of one option (Galician). While this is bad enough (the questionnaire was supposed to be neutral), the letter rests on ludicrous claims:

1) “Galician is Galicia’s own language; it belongs to us all and we cannot play with its future”

This is irrelevant: It fails to take into account the interests of people who speak Galician. The language to speak should not be chosen because it is related to a particular territory. Languages are an instrument for communication. People who choose their education in Galician may do so, regardless whether Galician “belongs” to them or not. To make Galician-based education optional is not “playing with its future”.

2) “as teaching personnel, we think we must offer thorough information about language learning, based on scientific studies”

First of all, they legitimize their opinion as superior because they are “teaching personnel”, although the problem is not at all about teaching, but rather about policies of freedom of choice. Secondly, history shows that languages are not chosen or discarded based on “scientific studies”, but rather languages become used or not as a result of forced adoption or convenience of using another language. Their “scientific studies” are unknown to me, but they seem irrelevant, because what is most important is people’s free choice, based on what they want, because it may be what’s most convenient, most useful, or most interesting for them (everyone may freely choose their motives for using one language or another)

3) “It’s fortunate, rather than unfortunate, that our community has a thousand-year-old language, which must unite us”.

“Which must unite us”? Is Galician the only way to unite people? Must people be “united”? This argument rests on too many assumptions. Can the Spanish language not unite the Galician people? Or, do they imply that Galician must “unite” the Galician people in facing others who are not Galician? This argument reeks of a desire to incite differentiation and segregation: Galician on one side, speaking Galician, and other people on other other side, speaking something other than Galician. What monumental stupidity.

4) “The idea that Galician is an obstacle for students must not be allowed to prevail, perpetuating old prejudices intended to keep Galician consigned to a secondary place in society”

These teaching personnel need to wake up and open their eyes. If someone regards Galician as an obstacle for students is because that’s probably true. That is: Galician, as any other language, allows communication with other people who speak the same language, and allows access to materials written and recorded in that language. If someone thinks their child must be able to communicate with people outside Galicia, then the Galician language might represent an obstacle rather than a vehicle. Nevertheless, most likely most people do not regard either of the two languages as an obstacle, but both are official languages and people must be allowed to choose whether they want to receive their education in one of them or both. Precisely, Galician does not need to be secondary, but if anyone regards it as secondary for them, they must not be forbidden to think that way.

5) “In order to know Galician it is necessary to ‘learn in Galician’ “.

This is true, but of course they do not speak about the conflict this implies with the other official language, Spanish: If one must learn in Galician in order to know the Galician language, they should make the equivalent statement: In order to know the Spanish language, one must learn in Spanish. Clearly, a single subject (say mathematics) cannot be taught simultaneously in two languages: one must be used. Which one to use? This is the question driving the CGENDL to ask people to use Galician (although they conveniently fail to say that in this manner they are regarding Spanish as “secondary”)

Actually, the problem is not that serious: In another Spanish region, the Basque Country, people who learned mathematics in Basque 20 years ago, for instance, have no problem utilizing that knowledge in a Spanish-speaking environment.

The real problem is a freedom of choice problem: The CGENDL today, and the previous Galician regional government before, intend to impose the use of one of the official languages (Galician) instead of allowing parents to choose.

6) The all-time favourite argument of any obsessed person: “Galician continues to be a minority language, and therefore it needs positive discrimination both within the education system and outside of it”

Translation of this argument: “Because my interests are discriminated against, let us discriminate against the opposite to promote my interests”.

If there truly are intentional limitations to Galician, such damaging practices may be fought against. However, the solution to avoid discrimination must not consist of artificially promoting Galician through “positive discrimination”.

Assuming no imposed limitations exist to the use of Galician, the minority use of Galician is due to the majority of people choosing a language other than Galician (Spanish). “Positive discrimination” would therefore imply that people should be forced to use Galician, to ensure that it is used as frequently as Spanish. Again here we find the desire to force people into doing something, instead of allowing them to choose the language they wish to use “both within the education system and outside of it”.

Language is not an end

Language is communication, and nothing else. Human beings keep on insisting to attach properties of identity, culture and even politics to languages, but this is completely wrong. Every time the “identity” or “cultural” aspect of language is claimed by anyone, this is done so exclusively with the intent to separate, segregate and differentiate people from each other.

Humans should regard language primarily (and almost exclusively) as a communication tool. Languages are not an end, but a means. Preserving or promoting languages for the sake of it, (like the CGENDL and nationalist regional parties want to do) is nothing but an attempt to divide (rather than unite) people, with the only goal of gaining popularity.

13-week monsters

In the context of the abortion debate, agitated by the government of Rodríguez Zapatero with its new “Law of Reproductive and Sexual Health and of Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancies”, the Minister of Equality (yes… we have such a idiotic Ministry in Spain), Bibiana Aído, has marked the age limit for the human fetus to be considered human or not.

That is, the socialist government has turned itself into official philosopher and dictates who is human and who is not. This government must really have magical properties, because despite all absurdity they utter, they manage to keep considerable popular support.

What’s that about a 13-week fetus not being human? Is a one week fetus something other than human? What else is it? Possibly up until 13 weeks of pregnancy the fetus is not human, but a giraffe or an extraterrestrial being. Despite any efforts by the minister, the socialist party, the president, or anyone else to the contrary, the fetus of a human being is human at any time of the pregnancy. I guess the minister wanted to emphasize that the fetus is not a person, and that killing it is not bad from a moral point of view.

However, Aído also said that the fetus is a living being. Therefore, she is saying that it is ok to kill a living being just because, only because other people decide it so. Even though this minister says that the murdered fetus is not human, it is. Thus, a correct interpretation of her words state that this minister of Rodríguez Zapatero‘s government says that it is fine to kill living human beings if they are 13 weeks or less into their development in the womb.

Furthermore, as Amando de Miguel very well pointed out once, “interruption” of the pregnancy (the title of the law) is a term used to mislead: The law talks about an early end to pregnancy, the elimination of life, and not an interruption, for an interrupted act can be resumed, but the abortion of life (of 13 weeks, as Aído admits, or any other age) cannot be resumed.

The colossal rigmarole the Minister got herself into by stating that human beings grow non-human beings in their wombs is quite clear proof that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, she doesn’t know what she wants to say, she doesn’t know what she believes, she doesn’t believe what she says, or she doesn’t say what she believes. In any of those cases, Aído is proving once again her uselessness. Sadly, however, she is most useful for Rodríguez Zapatero and his plan to dumb everyone down.

Encouraging drug use – or so it seems

The “Foundation for help against drug addiction” (“Fundación de Ayuda contra la Drogadicción”, or FAD in Spanish) puts out an advertisement campaign every so often in Spain to raise awareness about the problems that drug addiction can bring. At least that’s what they say.

Their latest campaign consists of images depicting cocaine and Ecstasy as attractive products, alongside very small (comparatively) messages that supposedly should make people realize that drugs are harmful. The messages state that cocaine will bring “60% more suffering for your couple per gram”, or claim that by consuming Ecstasy you “enter a daily draw for a car accident”. (see below)

First and foremost, advertisement (of drugs or anything else) is effective with attractive visual presentations, not thanks to textual messages. These FAD adverts against drug use do have a powerful image, which makes drugs attractive. The textual message that goes along is completely invalidated.

Secondly, the pretended irony in those messages is far too complicated for the target population (high risk potential drug users) to understand. The irony can even be regarded as “funny”, and thus the whole advertisement may look attractive, as an invitation to drug use.

Thirdly, the messages themselves are stupid. Cocaine consumption is sure to make your couple (but also your family, friends, and everyone else) experience an “increase in suffering” of far more than 60%. This message is bland, weak and moronic. The other message plays with appealing language (like “win a prize”) to say that you can win a car accident. Again a misleading message: if you’re on drugs and are driving, whatever happens is no accident: it has a clear cause and that’s your drug intake. Any injuries to life (yours or other people’s) are the result of drug use, and not of fate.

Why does the FAD put out such feeble campaigns? These adverts are almost counterproductive. One would think that they’re promoting drug use: The advert can be seen on bus stops across Madrid, and most of the time you only see the picture of the drug itself with its name in big letters. The simplistic messages supposedly condemning drug use are invisible, and thus all that remains is a big picture of drugs, as if promoting their use.

If they want to help society with an awareness campaign, the FAD should simply publish big banners stating the negative effects of drug use: heart disease, heart attacks, gastrointestinal complications, blurred vision, chest pain, fever, hallucinations, tremors, learning disabilities, depression, memory loss, or anxiety.

With their current campaign, the FAD seems to promote drug use. Ladies and gentlemen of the FAD: please remove this useless and pitiful campaign:

FAD Advert

FAD Advert

FAD Advert

FAD Advert

Embarrassing European Union

Ireland and a few other European countries decided to ask their citizens in referendum to ratify (or not) the EU Lisbon Treaty. Other countries simply voted in parliament.

In June 2008 the majority of Irish said “no” to this treaty, while the rest of Europe voted yes. The single “no” vote meant, in theory, that the treaty was not accepted (officially all 27 EU member states had to vote “yes” for the treaty to be approved).

So… what to do when the vote is not what you want it to be? Just make people vote again, and see if you get the result you want this time! That’s exactly what the European Union proposed Ireland to do, and it seems Ireland has agreed to this “solution”.

With “solutions” like this, who needs rules at all? If the rule was that all 27 members states are required to vote yes, then the treaty was dead the minute Ireland said “no”. Maybe EU leaders were too optimistic thinking all 27 would say “yes”, but once they set that rule in the beginning, they ought to stand by it, or else resign from their positions. They have lost all credibility.

If we are going to have Ireland repeat their vote, just because some people want them to say “yes”, why don’t we have a repeat vote in Spain, for instance? Some people are not happy with Spain’s “yes” vote, and might like a repeat vote until Spain says “no”. If we don’t get what we want on the second try, we can go for a third attempt. Why not? Once we accept a second vote in one country (Ireland), why deny others the same second opportunity?

The European Union is embarrassing.

What members of parliament of all 27 EU member states should do, first thing in the morning when they go back to work tomorrow, is to establish a single electoral constituency in Europe, for all Europe-wide matters. A referendum about the Lisbon Treaty should be voted simultaneously in all 27 member states, on the same day, and there should be a single EU-wide result, not 27 individual results. The aggregated “yes” votes should be compared with the aggregated “no” votes, and there you’d have the answer of Europeans to the Lisbon Treaty.

The same system should be used for European Parliament elections. As a European citizen, I want to be able to choose from all people and parties running for a parliamentary seat, regardless of whether they are from my own country or any of the other 26 member states. I want them to campaign Europe-wide, and I want to choose among all of them, rather than being restricted to picking among politicians from my own country.

Granted, we’d probably see the number of members of parliament from a given country decrease and others increase. The government of the less-represented country may not be so happy about this, but that’s only because they oppose nature. If people are really free to choose among candidates from all over Europe, the resulting parliament would be a mere representation of the wishes of all Europeans, including those from the underrepresented country, because it means they chose to vote for people from other countries.

A few roadblocks may be on the way to implement such a system (language barriers, opposition from smaller countries, others…), but precisely the single Europe-wide electoral constituency may very well be the first necessary step to achieve integration of Europe’s resources and strengths, to get us all working together, and to erode (with time) the hard edges that cause friction in internal European relations. Unless, of course, this is not what we (Europe) want.

Spain: DVB-T for nothing

Mass media is the nicest toy for a politician. No better tool exists for mass control of people, regardless of the type of content: news, documentaries, sports, arts, or anything else. Almost any of it can be sprinkled with political messages, and it’s in the interest of politicians to control the mass media market, as much as they can, to convey the political messages and ideologies they want to impose on people.

Some leaders manage to assert complete control minimizing market freedom (only state-owned TV or radio channels exist at a state-wide scale), while others maneuver around market freedom by constraining the reach of given channels to certain areas of territory.

In Spain, the advent of DVB-T (Digital Video Broadcasting – Terrestrial, or TDT by its Spanish name) failed to offer TV consumers more freedom, a wide offer of channels, or an improvement in program quality compared to the existing analog broadcast channel offer. Those enhancements would have been possible, had the technology not been curbed by idiotic Spanish administrative divisions: the dreadful system of autonomous regions.

Before DVB-T, there were 5 nation-wide analog TV channels (2 public state-owned, 3 private). Additionally, each autonomous region (there are 17 of them) had their own official channels as well (one or two). The government in power would control the two state-owned national TV channels, and each regional government would control their own public local channels.

When DVB-T arrived, politicians took care to limit its potential, as it posed a great danger for them. They were committed to permit new, privately-owned, channels to broadcast on DVB-T, but they made sure to limit the number of nation-wide channels to only a few, controlled by the same TV broadcasters already operating analog broadcasts. Other channels would be regional, or even local (city level), which DVB-T licences are managed by each regional government for its own local region.

This means new TV channels need to apply for licenses in 17 different regions if they want to broadcast nationwide, resulting in increased costs for TV operators, and a multiplication of public spending (17 DVB-T licence management offices rather than a single one).

Most importantly, however, the partition of Spain into 17 different broadcast domains allows each regional government to control the type of programming their voters will get on TV. It is simply embarrassing and outrageous to see freedom of programming completely limited and even eliminated for mere political interest.

Recently, the Socialist party in Spain (PSOE) proposed that all public regional TV channels should be broadcast nation-wide. In doing so, they want to achieve that programming in the regional languages (Catalonian, Galician, Basque) can be seen all over Spain. Nothing wrong with TV programming in different languages, but this proposal is limited to public channels, and motivated by a desire by the Socialist party to give more and more attention to the local interests of nationalist and localist regional governments of Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country. The PSOE’s proposal is focused on crowd control to expand the ideology of localism, differentiation and exclusion.

Giving a nation-wide reach to local-language (public) TV channels is fine, as long as this part of a plan to unify the broadcasting space in Spain, where regional administrations would have no control over broadcasting licences, and the nation-wide programming offer would include public TV channels, regional (and regional-language) public channels, but also including the wide range of private channels operating in Spain through regional DVB-T licenses.

These private channels have to resort to be distributed over pay services (like Imagenio, Ono, Digital+, Zattoo, and others) to reach a nationwide audience. Naturally, the pay services audience is minimal in comparison with free aerial DVB-T broadcasts. Regional governments take care to deny licenses of aerial DVB-T broadcasting inside their plot of land to unfriendly private media that might show uncontrollable political opinions, thus ridding TV viewers of alternatives to the official doctrine shown constantly on public TV.

Just like video killed the radio star, politicians killed freedom of media, effectively curbing freedom of speech. This is the situation in Spain, and there is no political party in sight willing to change this. Outrageous.