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cavehillred AT yahoo.co.uk

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is anyone else loving this weather?

But their enjoyment is marred with a nagging fear and suspicion that the Summer will turn out totally crap again and after fourteen weeks of solid rain, we'll still be talking wistfully about this weekend come September?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The other World Cup

No, not the egg-chasers World Cup.

Not the Women's World Cup.

Not the 'homeless' World Cup either.

(Which is a total swizz, because of course all the people playing in it have a roof over their heads. It should be called the 'Formerly Homeless' World Cup. But if they called it that, then I could enter. After all, I spent a night in a skip once. But that's another story.)

This is the World Cup for countries that FIFA refuse to recognise.

Now, let's be honest here. FIFA's concept of what constitutes a sovereign nation is odd enough to begin with. According to FIFA, Northern Ireland is a nation. According to FIFA, Kazakhstan is a European country. According to FIFA, so is Israel, although they used to be an Australasian country.

The 22 nations that take part in the Non-Fifa World Cup include some places whose secessions and right to autonomy have been denied by ongoing colonial powers, such as Chechnya, West Papua, Somaliland and Tibet.

It also includes less morally justifiable concepts of nations like Padania (North Italy), Monaco and North Cyprus. And some long lost national entities like Wallonia, Occitania and Zanzibar. And a completely cerebral idea of a diaspora nation - the Roma peoples of Europe.

Anyhow, the game was between Tibet and Padania, and Tibet lost 14-2 to the quasi-Italians, who won the Trophy for the Freedom of the Peoples.

I'm sure it was a good day out for all concerned. I hope all of the peoples win their freedoms soon.

P.S. Good luck to Trap and his team in their first game against Serbia tonight. I'll be there. Don't let me down, now.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Department of stupid scientific research

There's always plenty of fresh product from the Department of stupid scientific research.

So widespread are studies into the bleeding obvious or the mind-bogglingly stupid that barely a week goes by without someone rolling their eyes in print at the latest research proving birds don't have bird-brains, or how teaspoons in the office go missing.

I don't really want to add to the plethora of print and posts sneering at scientific stupidity, as I think a lot of scientific research actually is useful and because I don't need to sneer at a scientific study in order to make myself feel smart.

But I did want to point out one small flaw, as I perceive it, in relation to this otherwise apparently useful piece of research into the effects of breast-feeding on the intelligence of newborn children.

If you're going to do a large study into the health of young children, don't do it in the most irradiated country on Earth, please? The results may not be replicated in countries without a major nuclear accident irradiating the nation in the past generation.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Time to cut taxi fares in Ireland to match the rock-bottom service

We have possibly the worst taxis in Europe.

Smelly, 92-C reg Toyotas, on their third lap of the mileometer, driven by smoking racists or immigrant ignoramuses, that's if they aren't actually also convicted rapists or a couple of years out of prison after serving time for mowing down three people under the influence the last time they had a licence.

Yup, rock-bottom service provided by characters of all sorts of dubiety, in cars that range from comfy new limos to stinking scrappers. That's the taxi industry in Ireland.

But you wouldn't get that impression if you listened to the industry, of course. Living up to rumours that they are riven with criminality, they took to blocking the streets of Dublin today, moaning as they always do about not fleecing the rest of us for enough of our money.

Well, I reckon it's time the rest of us spoke out about this appalling industry and demanded higher service rather than higher prices.

I suggest that everyone email the Taxi Regulator and send them a submission for the current public consultation on hiking taxi fares yet again. You can be sure that taxi drivers and their families are emailing the regulator asking for stupid money for their poor service. Well, it's up to the rest of us to put the regulator right.

Have a read of this. The taxi mafia want MORE money, again.

Well, it's time for the rest of us to mail the regulator before mid-June and tell them no. Here's the address:

Put this in the title:
Feedback on Consultation Paper Number 5 Taxi Fare Revision.

Then in the body of your email, tell the regulator that the current system doesn't deserve to hike prices. Tell the regulator that the service is so poor and poorly overseen, that in fact prices should fall and fall dramatically to truly represent value for the service offered.

If you don't fancy putting it in your own words, you could always adapt what I wrote:

Obviously the fares issue is one of the least pressing issues relating to the Irish taxi industry. The urgent requirement to ensure that drivers know the regions in which they drive, the need to enforce basic standards of car safety and cleanliness, the police vetting of drivers to prevent convicted sex offenders or those with prior motoring convictions from joining the industry, and the introduction of language proficiency testing are just four more pressing issues than the idea of hiking prices yet again.
Without these basic safeguards of professionalism in place, why should the public be forced, yet again, to suffer an unjustifiable hike in prices?
Frankly, without these elements in place, it would be more relevant to slash the current prices to account for the sub-standard nature of service within the industry currently.
I suggest cutting the minimum fare to a euro (1.20 during night time hours) for starters, and tarriffs should range from 40c per km to no more than 1 euro per km. No more than 1 euro is a legitimate booking fee, and extra passengers and luggage should be charged for in keeping with their addition to the weight being carried - therefore additional passengers ought to be charged no more than a 5% addition to the overall fare, and similar for luggage items.
As a post-script, it is essential that the regulator refuse all attempts by taxi representatives to enforce a cap on entrants to the industry, or any other form of protectionism. The regulator should not be bullied by stunts such as the blocking of traffic in Dublin today by the lunatic fringe of the industry. The public deserves better than for these people to be given into every time they behave in this sort of anti-social manner, disrupting the capital.
Currently, the taxi industry is a poorly performing industry with low standards and high costs to the consumer. What we want to see is exactly the opposite. It is imperative that the regulator place the consumer at the centre of all future revisions and changes to the industry.

Maybe if the regulator grows a set of stones and cuts their money, some of the scumbags will be driven out of the industry altogether.

Maybe the regulator might get some ideas from our emails and start implementing some basic police vetting for drivers, some basic knowledge and language testing for drivers, some basic hygiene monitoring of cars, and maybe the result of that would be some basic civility from the bolshiest and most dubious industrial sector in Ireland.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Pacific is our dustbin

The Pacific Ocean is officially now our dustbin.

Look at the image here, drawn up by the nice people at The Independent newspaper.

Those two dark blobs represent much larger blobs of bobbing plastic, garbage, trash, rubbish, call it what you will. Our detritus.

Effectively, this floating bin now stretches from Japan to Hawaii, and from Hawaii half way to the US.

The amount of ocean fouled by this trash is twice the size of the continental United States.

It really is time to recycle, people. This is not a green fantasy anymore. What happens when we run out of ocean to piss, shit and dump plastic into?

Monday, May 12, 2008

When the earth moves

I was in Athens during the last Olympics. One mid-afternoon, I was sitting on a balcony with a Greek friend when, literally, the earth moved.

I have to admit to squealing like a girl. We were on the fourth floor of a somewhat shoddy apartment block, after all. And when the ground beneath your feet jerks and trembles like shook cloth, it is disconcerting to say the least.

Afterwards, my friend took me out into the street and pointed out the red X marks on some adjoining derelict buildings. Those, he explained, were signs of condemnation - buildings that were no longer safe after the last large quake. What we had just experienced, he said, was just a little shudder.

Well, what they've experienced in Szechuan today is no little shudder. At 7.8 on the Richter scale, it is only marginally less powerful than that which sparked the tsunami on 26th December 2004.

This is a breaking news story and we will hear more as time progresses. But I've been to Chengdu. It's a very large city of very recently built concrete structures of high density, poor quality housing.

And I've been to the smaller towns in Szechuan too. They're even worse.

We're hearing that six schools have collapsed trapping the pupils inside. We're hearing that tens of thousands of people have been killed. I don't doubt these stories. They tally with what I know of the infrastructure of the region.

Hopefully, unlike their puppets in Burma, The Chinese Communist Party will acknowledge the need for external help in the face of a horrific natural disaster.

Hopefully, the world will not turn their face away from the innocent victims of both these tragedies, purely because their governments are incompetent, totalitarian regimes.

Hopefully, these tragedies will shake our preconceptions of the peoples of South East Asia, and our response to their tragedies will shake their preconceptions of us.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Culchie Coup D'Etat

Yes, I know I wanted rid of Bertie Bung. Be careful what you wish for and all. I know.

But still.

A culchie coup d'etat?

The BIFFO for Taoiseach we knew about. A man with no experience outside of politics running the country (into the ground) in a time of economic downturn. Fantastic.

What we didn't see coming was the near total eradication of Dublin influence in the governing party at the executive table.

With Bertie gone to the back benches, and Seamus Brennan jumping (for health reasons) before he was pushed, and his constituency colleague Tom Kitt bizarrely axed, the cabinet loses three Dublin ministers.

And with Mary Hanafin demoted for her mishandling of the autism issue (and for being from Dublin), the capital loses further influence.

In their place comes perennial non-achiever from Caaark like, 'Batt' O'Keefe, and Cavan-Monaghan slogger Brendan Smith, the man who has spent the guts of a decade ploughing a lonely furrow in the North-East defending the indefensible health cuts on behalf of the government.

And the indefensible herself, Mary Harney, remains at the trough, against all common sense.

We also saw the arrival of Pat Carey as chief whip, replacing poor Tom Kitt. This is the man who previously oversaw the national drugs strategy. No, not the strategy that led to Ireland becoming awash in cocaine. The strategy that tried to prevent Ireland becoming awash in cocaine. So, not much talent there.

And some of the other appointments are culchie-tastic too. Micheal Martin as Foreign Minister? We lose the urbane (but potential Taoiseach) Dermot Ahern as our international representative and have him replaced by Langerman? The man who launched a thousand health reports? Give me a break.

Dermot Ahern to Justice is another demotion, no matter how it's spun. That's Biffo's none too subtle method of de-fanging the main opposition to his leadership. Ahern must surely realise now that he should have had the stones to make a contest of the leadership.

Right now, he'd be better off as a disgruntled back bencher, leading the anti-biffo FF, than in his current ignominious position implementing Brian Lenihan's policy agenda.

But it gets better. Instead of sacking that useless oxygen thief Martin Cullen, Biffo has promoted him to Tourism Minister. Frankly, if this country was the sunniest, safest, and cheapest on Earth, I'd still think twice about visiting if it was his ugly lying mug asking me to. And Ireland is none of those things.

But the real 'fuck you' to city dwellers is the elevation of 'lovely girl' Mary Coughlan to Tanaiste. I mean, come on. Are we meant to laugh or cry at that? Are we now basking in mediocrity to this extent?

In fairness, it's been a bad day for Dublin South, losing two cabinet ministers at one fell swoop. I predict incinerators and sewage plants to be built in Dundrum shortly.

Tom Kitt may have been smarmier than Bob Monkhouse, but he was at least an effective whip, toiling away beyond notice, ensuring that FF maintained their ever-tenuous but ever-present grip on power for the past half-decade.

The loss of two ministers will go down well next to Harvey Nicks. Well, it won't, but it'll go down really well with the bogtrotters who bussed it up to Dublin from Offally and gathered outside Leinster House like gombeen groupies earlier to cheer on Cowen's elevation.

If I were a betting man, I'd go out and stick a couple of quid on Fine Gael to lead the next government. If they can't outpunch this bunch of gobdaws, they don't deserve to ever run the country.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

How to boycott the genocide olympics

Here is where you can find the complete roll of shame - the list of corporate donors and contributors to the Genocide Olympics in Beijing.

To assist people in boycotting the services and products of those firms seeking to promote themselves at the expense of the liberty of Tibetans, the democracy of the Burmese, the hunger of the North Koreans and the right to life of refugees in Darfur, I've listed below their rivals who you can use intead:

Scumbag Sponsor Firm - Rival Firm you can use instead

Coca-Cola - Pepsi (or better still, avoid tooth-rotting cola)
ATOS Origin - Literally thousands of alternative firms
General Electric - Thousands of rivals depending on sector
Johnson and Johnson - Body Shop (or use natural/artisan products)
Kodak - Nikon for cameras, Lexmark for printers
Lenovo - Dell, Acer, HP all do better PCs anyway
Manulife - Thousands of financial and insurance firms
McDonalds - Burger King (or better still, eat healthy)
Omega - Rolex, Timex, Cartier, Tag Heuer, etc, etc.
Panasonic - Sony, LG, Pioneer, Phillips, etc.
Samsung - Sony, LG, Pioneer, Phillips, etc.
Visa - Mastercard, Amex.
Volkswagen - Ford, Renault, Mercedes, Toyota, etc.
Adidas - Gola, Nike (though they've a poor history too)
UPS - Fed-ex, DHL
Haier - Whirlpool, Siemens, etc.
Budweiser, TsingTao, Yanjing beers - Drink your local beer
BHP Billiton - BP, Shell, various metal processors
Great Wall Wine (It's truly muck) - Something tasty from France, Italy, Oz, etc.
Beifa Pens - Scheaffer, Cross, Parker, etc.
Schenker Logistics - Bax, DHL, Fed-ex, Geologistics, etc.
Technogym - Nautilus, Oemmebi, Weider, Weslo, York, etc.

Don't forget the Scumbag Suppliers too:

Education First - Study somewhere else instead of China
Der Floor - Respol, Hytech, Premfloor etc.
Liby - Daz, Tide, Total, Lenor, etc.
Price Waterhouse Coopers - KPMG, Ernst and Young, Deloitte and Touche

By the way, don't forget to also boycott subsidiaries. For example, Volkswagen also own Audi, Bentley, Skoda, Lamborghini, Bugatti and Seat. So don't just boycott the leading brand, boycott ALL the firm's output.

A simple background check of any of the firms above online, especially via wikipedia, should reveal a list of their subsidiaries.

Do let firms know that you're boycotting them and why. How can corporate scumbags be expected to learn if we don't tell them why we're withholding our custom?

Happy boycotting!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Do you laugh, cry or recolonise?

It's hard to know what the correct response is, when you encounter a story as bizarre, shocking and innately tragic as this.

To summarise, dozens of 'witchdoctors' in the 'democratic republic' of the Congo have been arrested on suspicion that they have been using 'black magic' to shrink people's penises.

According to a report from Reuters correspondents:

Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.

This isn't just a Congo phenomenon. Previous outbreaks of penis-thievery have occurred in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, in most West and Central African countries, in fact.

How do you respond to this in the 21st century? Do we laugh at the stupid, ill-educated, superstition-ridden Africans?

Do we lament their ill education, their superstitions, their poor democratic structures and their silly belief systems as we have done for decades?

Or should we maybe start looking at the weeping wound that is Africa, the prevalence of Aids, malaria, demogogues, lynchings, rapes, civil wars, famines, plagues and general horrors, and think about that great taboo - direct intervention by the West?

Recolonisation runs against the liberal principles of many people in the Western bubble of affluence. But they - we - don't have to live in the reality, in the squalor, under the fear of random murder, or rape, or incarceration in a squalid torture prison.

Not to mention the real and present danger of having your penis stolen.

Perhaps if we did, we'd be calling out for Africans to come and liberate us from ourselves?