Citibank Proud?

I honestly have no idea what’s happening here. Were the customers inside there closing accounts? Is that reason enough to close the branch and lock them inside?

Why would security guards drag a woman into the bank? Was it because she was attempting to take names while she was outside the bank? Can they be charged with common assault? I presume she wasn’t trespassing as she was on the pavement.

It makes no sense.

Meanwhile in Spain, tens of thousands can peacefully protest without any police in sight.

More: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Dame Street.

Watching as Greece falls apart

Athens has become a battlefield of late. The country has to save 28 billion Euro by 2015 or risk default. I’d ask how the hell that happened but then all you have to do is look at the mess Ireland is in. Sure, they’re very different situations but the end result is the same. Recession and austerity.

How did things get so bad in Greece? This post might go some way to explaining things.

You see, as precipitous as the rise in national debt has been over the last couple of years, it is still amateur stuff compared to the way we piled on the debt between 1981, the year of Αλλαγή, the Change, ushered in by a massive 48% majority, (Time coverage here) and 1993, when the Maastricht rules finally started to bite and we were forced to pull the handbreak on our burgeoning government budget.

Didn’t the Irish Government do something like that in the 70’s? Borrow and borrow and borrow again? Cue Charlie Haughey’s famous quote in 1980. Even though he was living the high life the rest of the country suffered through a bad recession in the 80’s, as it is now..

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Greece. The impression I’ve got from the media here is of a country of self employed people who mostly don’t pay taxes and where jobs go to family members (rather than on merit), of a massive civil service that people aspire to join rather than go into private business (due in no small part to the fact that family members get the best jobs). How depressing but as an outsider looking in I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction!

For more, follow some English speaking Greek people on Twitter:

Photos of the protests: 1, 2, 3, 4.

These days will pass, but I have a feeling the EU and the world at large will be a very different world.

Police Brutality in Barcelona

If you’ve been watching the news you probably missed the bit about the protests in Spain recently. I certainly haven’t heard anything about them on Irish radio stations and among those I follow on Twitter only Allan Cavanagh seems to be talking about it. Spanish TV stations aren’t talking about it either apparently:

Meanwhile, Barcelona TV has a cooking show; TV1 is covering an actress with depression; TV3 (Catalan) discussing bass guitars. #acampadabcn

He linked to a very distressing video showing Police brutality against unarmed protesters in Barcelona. Unfortunately (or thankfully depending on how sensitive you are to violence) I can’t embed it here.

I remember years ago a Spanish friend warning me that the Police there weren’t to be messed with, and she was only referring to traffic police.

THIS IS BARCELONA. THIS IS IN SPAIN WHERE YOU WENT ON HOLIDAY. WHAT THE HELL?

The King of Pop is dead

Michael Jackson

Where were you when you heard? My wife and I were relaxing in the sitting room of the Dingle Skellig Hotel when we heard that Michael Jackson had died. An elderly couple across the room had the Irish Examiner and were poring over the news.

I remember the day he played in Cork. I lived in Blackrock, only a mile and a bit from the stadium, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, where he played to a sold out audience. That day my French exchange student arrived by ferry and spent the evening in bed recovering from the trip. I hung around the house since I didn’t want to be away in case he woke up.
I could hear the glorious pop tunes from my front door and I longed to walk down and sneak into the grounds around the stadium for a better listen, but nooooo, I bloody well stayed at home. He never woke up. He slept through until the morning! Argh!

Thankfully my wife has better memories of the day. She was there, and even before today she’s said it was the best concert she’s been to. She has mentioned it several times over the years. She remembers the 15 year old teenager with tears of joy as MJ sang “Man in the Mirror”. She went on and on about how he played all his hits rather than pushing “the new stuff” nobody knew yet.

*Sigh*. Jean-Jacques, I wonder if you’ll ever read this. I don’t hold it against you, but I should have had the sense to wander off down there!

Edit: a few more posts about Michael Jackson:

  1. MS Paint Portrait
  2. A mashup of “Rock With You” and (Queen and?) David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”.
  3. Did you know MJ registered a patent?

Zhong Tai, the 250 mile electric SUV

Zhong Tai

I read during the week about the Zhong Tai, a 4 seater car based on the body of the 2006 Daihatsu Terios with a claimed range of 250 miles and thought, “this is a car that would suit my family”.

The Sunday Times has the full scoop as they’re the first western publication to put this Chinese car to the test. They were impressed!

New Power, by contrast, claims to have developed an electric four-seater with a range of 250 miles and plans to bring it to the UK “within the next couple of years”. Known as the Zhong Tai (the name translates roughly as “peace and safety for the people”), it has lithium-ion batteries that can be recharged in 6-8 hours from a conventional socket, or in two hours from a high-power recharging point. With a top speed of 75mph and an estimated price tag of between £16,300 and £20,500 in Britain, the Zhong Tai could be both practical and affordable enough to make drivers part with their internal combustion engines for good.

I wonder what the resale value on electric cars will be like? It’s well known that batteries degrade with time so that component will bring down the price. Then there’s the strides technology is making in this field. Will people want the latest whizz bang gadget?
Hopefully advancements in battery technology will be backwards compatible. An electric motor is an electric motor (I guess), but battery tech is getting so much better all the time.

Is anyone driving an electric car in Ireland?

Stop the Killing

gaza-protest

A protest march in Cork today against the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Plenty of photographers covering the event, I wouldn’t be surprised to see photos appear on Flickr soon.

gaza-protest-23

A leaflet urged the reader to boycott Israeli products and listed many well known brands. Unfortunately if I was to do that I wouldn’t be able to use my Intel powered laptop, and I wouldn’t be able to use WordPress because Israeli citizens have contributed to it. Oh wait, you probably shouldn’t even use the Internet. Log off now please.

gaza-protest-16

At the end of the march, the speaker pictured above told the crowd that there would be another march next weekend. Ominously he said all shops in Cork should not sell Israeli produce and whatever it takes will be done to force them to do that. He added that only lawful pressure would be applied, that “we must stay on this side of the law”.
How is that really going to hurt Israel? The produce is already bought and paid for by the retailer. Irish shop keepers are reeling from the worst Christmas sales in years and they want to put more pressure on them? You’re only going to hurt the local economy if you go ahead with that boycott. Insane!

I have so much sympathy for the people in Gaza and Israel. Innocent people get killed and maimed on both sides and the cycle of violence goes on and on and on and …

Joe Six Pack

So, who is this “Joe Six Pack” that Sarah Palin keeps going on about? The Urban Dictionary says,

Average American moron, IQ 60, drinking beer, watching baseball and CNN, and believe everything his President says.

That isn’t the most flattering description of a demographic group. Who would willingly view themselves as a “Joe Six Pack” after reading that? Is there an Irish or British equivalent?

Anyway, I became curious after hearing another news report about American politics on Irish radio and found that Joe Six Pack really does exist! Joe dishes out the info on a range of topics and describes himself as, “America’s Most-Popular Divorced Dad”. Odd.

It turns out that Joe The Plumber exists too. They’re a plumbing company in Amarillo, Texas. I want one of their tshirts!

I’d love to see their stats. I wonder if the McCain/Palin campaign has sent much traffic to either site? Check out Palin as President for a humorous look at what Sarah Palin’s first day in the Oval Office might be like. Cracked me up.

So, who’s for a Brian Cowen tshirt? Or even an Enda Kenny tshirt? Can you imagine car bumper stickers with Cowen’s face? What would that do to the accident rate in the country?

Shocked that my credit card number was stolen

Wow, this is one of things you never expect to happen to you. Linode, where this blog is hosted, recently emailed me saying my monthly payment had been denied and I should contact my bank.

This morning I received a letter from the bank saying they had tried to call me and would I ring them which I did. After holding for what seems like an age I talked to a nice girl at the bank who told me there were suspicious transactions on the card:

  1. Aug 30: 1 Euro spent at the iTunes store. Never used it. Alarm bells ringing.
  2. Aug 31: 3 Euro at “Usenext”, whatever that is.
  3. Sep 3: Various amounts (168 Euro, 48 Euro..) spent at Virginmedia on subscriptions.

Ouch, thankfully the bank caught it and I’m not out of pocket, but it’s frightening when you’re the victim of credit card fraud. I presume it was skimmed by the same guys who had impersonated repair men and modified credit card machines around the country that was widely reported last week. The card hardly ever gets used online. Cutting it up now.

The EU Gravy Train

Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott and other MEPs filmed in Brussells at 7am on a Friday morning clocking in with bags packed. Oh dear.


Kathy Sinnott, fresh faced and angry after 7 hours work overnight.

Makes me wonder if I should have voted yes to Lisbon. Kathy Sinnott was looking for a No vote (no, she didn’t influence me) but perhaps the Lisbon Treaty would have stopped this sort of thing. Oh wait! Who am I kidding? Of course it’ll continue!

(via someone on #linux who mentioned the video)

Update Kathy Sinnott published a fair video response to the RTL report. She doesn’t defend her colleagues, but makes it fairly clear (unless those emails were doctored which is easy, but I digress..) that she was working through the night. She also adds that the “[expenses] regime is ending in the next term”.
Via Fred, who came from here according to my logs so I presume he’s spreading the word.