Monday, October 27, 2008

Rock The Casbah

In Bahrain for one of my best mate's weddings. It's a bizarre country, a strange mix of islamic behaviour with concessions to western influences. I'll put up a couple of pictures when I get back.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Complete Control

Things currently annoying my head in the newspapers:

'Hilarious' articles about how to 'beat' the recession. 'Turn off the dishwasher and wash the dishes in the bath with your kids', you say? How clever! I bet all your dinner companions chortled themselves silly into their Blue Nun when you regaled them with that one.

'Dear oh dear' articles about the banking crisis. Shake your head and tut sadly as you relate to the reader how the spivs in the City have brought the global economy to its knees. Be careful not to give away the fact that you had neither the interest nor the intelligence to cotton on to what was happening years ago when writing puff-pieces about those very same geniuses at the height of the boom.

Rubber-necking schadenfreude articles about the diversity of individuals and groups who've lost their savings with the bankruptcy of obscure international banks. 'Look at them!' you say. 'Isn't it... *snigger*... terrible!' Make sure you fail to mention that those same banks and their products appeared at the top of every league table of financial products you published in the last few years. Definitely don't mention that you never warned your unsuspecting readers that the main reason they were at the top was that they were desperate to attract as many deposits as possible to bet on the dodgiest of dodgy financial products.

The 'nothing will ever be the same again' articles. Try with all your might to be the one to coin the phrase that achieves posterity. 'One things for certain', you say, 'the era of [insert future-cliche here] is at an end. Things will never be the same again...' Actually, yes. They will. Life will deal randomers who don't deserve it a horrible blow - shit happens some people - and some other punters will get lucky and prosper, whether they deserve to or not. But most people will just plod along, same as they ever did - buying food, watching TV, doing the lottery, gossiping and hoping to have enough dough for a decent holiday or two. Just like history didn't actually end; just like most of us got over 9/11 quite quickly, thanks very much; just like the boom couldn't last forever and just like the bust won't last forever. The world will keep turning, people will forget and history will repeat itself. It always does. Oh, and journalists who think they're too clever by half will be there to document it all for the plebs...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Surrender

The pharmaceutical plant I work in is in the middle of a three day audit being carried out by two Japanese gentlemen from the Japanese equivalent of the FDA. In a fine example of how some of my colleagues manage to be both complete dorks and crassly clueless at the same time they have called the room where issues are discussed and documents gathered for our Japanese friends the 'War Room'.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Know Your Rights

Within a week the government have crumbled over the withdrawl of an automatic entitlement to a medical card for over-70s. That is an amazingly quick climbdown and it shows that the notion of 'the elderly' being an amorphous mass of 'vulnerable members of society' is a crock of shit.

Fianna Fáil have always bought the votes of the elderly in this country between the extension of the medical card to the over-70s in the first place, rises in the pension and the provision of various free services.

That's not to say that elderly people are uniformally loaded or anything, but the fact remains that younger families on lower incomes and with more dependants are entitled to less. The medical card income threshold for the over-70s is now nearly double the minimum wage. How can that be considered right? And, more to the point, how can so many people have jumped on the bandwagon of demanding such a threshold?

In fact it was such a relatively new entitlement in the first place that you can actually watch video on the RTE website of doctors voicing their concerns about the strain the scheme was going to put on the medical card system when it was introduced 8-years ago - and it did.

P.S. Finian McGrath is a clown, a moustachioed clown for all to see.

If Music Could Talk

It would need to come up with some good excuses.

I'm very disappointed with the music I have been buying recently. Earlier in the year I was picking up some great albums - Pete & The Pirates, Elbow, White Denim, Fleet Foxes, The Dodos, Foals, Blood Red Shoes, Born Ruffians... - but recently I just seem to be picking up duds.

First of all the new Hold Steady album just grates on my ears after a couple of songs - all plodding bluesrock with annoying vocals. The new Bloc Party album sounds like they recorded a normal album, then handed it over to some punter to remix badly and, for good measure, the vocals sound completely out of place with the rest of the music the whole way through.

Next up is Glasvegas - universally praised, uniformly shite. The third track 'It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry' is one of the most drawn out, tedious mono-paced tracks I've had the misfortune to purchase in years. Paul Weller's and Albert Hammond Jr's new albums have done nothing for me either. Only the new TV on the Radio album is worth making any effort for.

In fact a recently downloaded version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Fortunate Son is my favourite thing right now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stories For Boys

HA HA HA HA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HA...

"The Food Standards Agency has today issued a food alert about novelty food products from China, including chocolate-flavoured 'willy spread', containing melamine.

Melamine is an industrial chemical that should not be present in food. Milk products containing melamine have been at the centre of a major food incident in China.

An Agency spokesperson said: 'This is a first. We’ve never had to put out an alert before on "willy spread" – chocolate-flavoured or otherwise. But on a serious note, if anybody has used any of the affected products they shouldn’t worry, the risk from the melamine in these products is low and it is very unlikely to be harmful.'

The levels of melamine detected in the affected products were 126mg/kg, 153mg/kg and 259mg/kg respectively. The European Commission has said that products found with more than 2.5mg/kg must be withdrawn from the market and destroyed.

The products were manufactured in Zhongshan, China by Le Bang and imported into the UK by Scobie (Llarn) Ltd. They have been sold to a number of Ann Summers premises in the UK.

Scobie (Llarn) Ltd has removed the affected products from sale."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Silver And Gold

Joke of a budget, snipping away here and there at the edges. No big ideas, nothing about investing in a recovery, nothing about genuine spending reform.

These money raising measures would be palatable if there was any sense that they would be used to bring us out the other side leaner and ready for action. But there isn't. It's all just random tax hikes with no guarantee that the total tax take will even hit budgetary targets.

As for me I don't know how the change in first time buyer tax relief affects me. But as it is the 1% levy and the increase in VAT and petrol and so on will simply have me spending less in response, and buying more from abroad where possible.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm So Bored With The USA

If Barack Obama maintains his lead in the polls right up til election day and McCain still wins the election, which I think is quite possible, I wonder how it will be spun?

Bad

The most horrendous miss of all time?...

Silver And Gold

Obviously as a new homeowner I'm awaiting the budget with a degree of trepidation. But I'm curious about what they'll do.

People like me are the lifeblood of the economy. I'm young, middle-class and on a decent salary. I contribute more or less a third of my salary to the state and take very little from the system in return. This is the social contract that I'm obliged to accept for the greater good and which most people accept unthinkingly.

Furthermore I'm a consumer so my spending contributes even more to the overall tax take, while keeping others in employment (who must also also pay tax and spend money and so on and so on).

So what will happen if my direct taxes are hiked? Well, simply, I'll adjust my spending downwards accordingly. What the government might get off me in extra income tax they will lose in VAT. Also, if many people react the way I will, businesses will struggle, thus denying the state taxes on their profits. If these businesses cut jobs or close altogether there will be fewer people paying income tax and more seeking welfare.

All that seems fairly obvious, I would have thought, so is there any chance that the budget will be a little more innovative than that?

Personally I'd much rather see an emphasis on closing tax loopholes so that those who can afford tax avoision (it's a word!) are prevented from doing so. Then I'd like to see evidence that the money they do have is going to be spent efficiently. I hate seeing it wasted - it was mine after all.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Genius

"A five-star Belfast hotel is being sued over claims it refused to show last month's All-Ireland football final on television.

...

"Brian Corey, a GAA fan from the Ormeau Road in Belfast, claims the refusal to show the match was an affront to his dignity and national identity."

Class...
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