Is your pension killing the planet?

Pollution

You are a model citizen.  You recycle your glass bottles.  You separate your household waste.  You don’t run the tap while you brush your teeth.  You buy A rated appliances.  You are doing everything in your power to save the planet, except you won’t give up that foreign holiday and you don’t pay exceptional attention to the carbon footprint of the Asparagus and Avocados you eat.

You are also fiscally continent.  You paid attention to all the good advice not to spend all your cash.  You have been squirreling away a good solid percentage of your pay packet.  If you are lucky your employer has been matching your contributions.  If you live in certain countries the Government is also matching your contributions by making them tax free.  Year by year that nest egg is growing and growing to provide you with a well feathered retirement nest.

What is that money doing?  Did you think it was sitting in a bank, accumulating cobwebs?  You know that the pension fund does something with it, but what?  Do you pay attention to how your money is used on your behalf?  Perhaps you should.

We read news reports about global corporate businesses exploiting people all over the world and how they damage the environment with oil spills, or cutting down rain forest, employing child labour etc etc.  We see these news reports and we are shocked.  We wonder who these evil business people are, and how they can do this.

Wake up, the evil global corporation is you.  It’s your money out there.

Your fund managers are acting on your behalf.  What is their motivation?  The more successful their fund is the more money it attracts and the more commission they make.  In the world of cut throat financial competition the hard numbers are what talk.  Success is measured in financial return, not in how many ice-floes you prevented from melting this quarter.

Are you supplying the guns to child soldiers in Africa?  There is good money in weapon sales.  Perhaps you are funding the expansion of a large tobacco company into South East Asia.  The regulatory environment is not so strict there, so you can sell more product to the under 18’s. Maybe you are heavily invested in farming, and that’s OK isn’t it?  Perhaps you are growing soya beans, in Brazil, in cleared Rain Forest.  And those soya beans are fed to cattle in intensive feed lots, where the run off is polluting local rivers.  Maybe that beef led to an outbreak of eColi in the human population.

Truth is you haven’t a clue, have you?

Truth is, you don’t really want to know.  You kind of know that once you lift the lid on that particular can of worms it’s going to be ugly.  You want to take the empties to the bottle bank, pat yourself on the back, and call yourself a good citizen.

With one stroke of a pen, moving your fund into ethical investments, you can make a larger impact on the planet than a lifetime of visits to the bottle bank.

All those pension brochures show you the picture of the couple on the beach enjoying their retirement.  What they fail to show is the mountain of plastic waste on the beach.  If you want the clean beach you need to do something about it today.

Beach

 

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Happy Birthday Harry Hooton

Harry.jpg

Born in Doncaster in 1908 on this day.  He emigrated to Australia aged 16 under a migrant scheme run by the Dreadnought Trust.  From his earliest days, working as a farm laborer, he developed a strong empathy for the lot of the working man.  Later in life his politics moved away from unionism and socialism to anarchism.

It is Great to be Alive; by Harry Hooton

This is an obvious imitation of Walt Whitman, is it?
Well, and wouldn’t that be better than another in sickly rime?
Perhaps you would prefer as more exquisite
some other fellow’s footprints in the sands of time,
or the past perhaps present future of Eliot’s pleasant slime….
But this is not an imitation of anyone: listen to me, I am alive!
Whitman and Longfellow are dead; Eliot doesn’t know he is;
I am for the Great-not the great poet, no matter how true he is;
I say that every man alive is great, no matter who he is,
for it is great to be alive!

The lowest man on earth is a hero and a god with me:
Whoever he is, he is greater than any or all of his fellows;
Means more to me than all the crowned or bald heads of europe;
Cleaner than any dust from greece,
warmer than the bones in westminster abbey;
Greater by far than all that has been before him,
and dwarfed only by what is to come after him….
Whoever he is, he is the One on whose shoulders the world rests;
the One at whose command material empires rise in ministration –
Not some artist or philosopher or emperor, but any man.

What is his social value, his justification?
Well, what is life’s justification?
If he can neither work nor plan, fiddle nor rime,
if he can’t provide occupational therapy for sick psychiatrists,
if rulers ever learn from him to abjure war, and need no gunman,
there would still be justification for his existence, in his sheer existence.
For life, in the saint and sinner, sane and insane, wise and otherwise –
Is its own justification.

Every man is inferior to every other man-in some respects;
And every man is superior to every other man-in other respects.
We can’t live without holding someone else up,
and we can’t live without someone holding us up.
One man is just as good as another, in fact better –
And in fact better than a million men; because you can’t make world wars out of one man,
and that’s all you can do with the latter.
But every man is great only in what he makes, in his subject matter
In the only things that really matter.

The plumber can’t bake, the builder can’t plumb, and the architect has them both beat;
The three are awed by the mathematician, who defers to the man with the axe;
They all yield to the artist who accepts them with all that lives and breathes;
And the all go to work and war-and must accept the superiority of a lunatic who is mad in a world which is terrifyingly sane.
There is no man living who can not find on some one thing higher authority –
That is if we accept those terribly important people who string words together
and think themselves so much better than men who merely stick bricks together;
As we expect other people with similar theses,
such as elephantine labourers who would pull social theories and theorists to pieces,
and such as anyone who seeks to rule over the living, and is in that one fact-dead!

Well then, if there must be lords and masters,
let us rule matter with every man alive;
If we must have slaves, let us enslave machines.
Let us be gods, and selfish –
Let the prostrate worshippers of the past be someone else-ish;
Let us be, and be worshipped ourselves.
Let the painter forgive his painting,
the poet redeem his poem,
and the dead bury the dead…

My poems are revolutions, of the builders, the living great,
searching with god-like hunger new matter to animate –
And of cities steeled in silence, now growing articulate;
Of things, machines, our creatures, raching in lever and rod
to touch the hands of their creators, praying to us as god….
True it is I echo-the mighty shouts of these hordes;
Yes, and an imitator-of impetuous powerful words;
Plagiarist of Whitman, of all the Sons of Man –
For they have heard me in the future, as I do those to come –
Yet greater than Christ or Whitman, than ash from any tomb –
Greater than any history, than ink from any pen,
For you my poems scan,
who despair of your social value, who are despised by men:
You are alive, you are human-by life you are made divine!
You are the revelation-one mightier poem than mine!

Me Tarzan You Jane

Tarzan

Today is the birthday of Edgar Rice Burroughs who never saw himself as a literary man.

He said:  “if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines

And so he did.  In the process he created the character of John Carter in the Barzoom novels and Tarzan of the Apes.  Tarzan has become one of the stock remake stalwarts of Hollywood and is re-created for every generation.  I grew up with the black and white Johnny Weissmuller movies and the 1960’s colour TV series starring Ron Ely.  I was in college when “Greystoke” was released in 1984 with Christopher Lambert in the lead role.  I brought my kids to the Disney version released in 1999.

The poem I chose for today is Helpline.  It is a bizarre journey beautifully rendered.  At first it will bring to mind the suffering of disaster victims and the heroism of the support service workers like those in Texas, Mumbai and Bangladesh today.

Then it segues into the pressure cooker environment of the modern day call center, environments described as the “dark satanic mills” of the 21st century.

Finally it resolves into the personal relationship of a daughter with her ageing lonely mother for whom her missing dog does seem like the end of the world.

Helpline; by Suzannah Evans

In the call centre at the end of the world
everyone is wearing the rags
of the clothes they came to work in two weeks ago.

From floor ten we count fires in the distance
the smoking remains of suburbs.

Tea breaks are strictly monitored
and the internet is still there
but we are getting tired of news.

We sleep where we’re comfortable –
stairwells, carpet, canteen chairs.

Lateness for shifts is not tolerated
although at this stage few of us
have homes to go to.
Demand for the service is high.

I don’t know why I’ve stayed so long in this job
when the world in which I could spend its ample wage
has disintegrated –
politicians in hiding
supermarkets forced open on burst streets

perhaps it’s because they all tell me
that my voice could be the last one they hear

perhaps it’s because almost every worried caller
reminds me of my worried mother

or because we talk about wallflowers,
the hunger, the smell of burned paint
reminisce about summer in the park.

Her dog went out two days ago and hasn’t come back
If I’d died he could have eaten me
she says
it sounds like a regret.

Happy Birthday Jerry Hourihane Clancy

21 years ago on this day Jerry was born in Holles Street Hospital at lunchtime.

That morning I asked Louise if I should go to work or not.  We went for a short walk up the road and back and then she told me to go ahead into work.  So off I went.  In the office I got a phone call asking if I would donate blood that day.  I rang home at about 10:30 and asked Louise how she was.  She said nothing was happening (liar).  So I agreed to go to Pelican House to donate.

I was just about finished with the donation when a call came in from the office telling me that Louise needed me straight away.  So they strapped up my arm, called me a plonker and threw me into a taxi home.

I was preparing for the long haul.  You’ve all seen it on TV.  Hours pacing the corridors as nothing happens.  So I made some sandwiches to take with me.  There was the remains of a half leg of lamb which makes some great sandwiches, especially if you have a nice chutney.

Then into the car and off to the hospital.  We parked up the car and walked over to registration.  Louise told the receptionist that she was going to have the baby straight away.  The eye rolling from the receptionist was clearly a practiced move born of many such situations.  Louise couldn’t walk any more, so I got a wheelchair to take her to the delivery ward.

They told me to go t o the waiting room and that I would be there for some considerable time.  I was so glad that I brought the book I was reading.  Unfortunately I never got to read the book, or eat the sandwiches.  Jerry was born about 40 minutes after we reached the hospital.

Once Louise and Jerry were settled I nipped home in the car to make some calls (pre-mobile phone days) and feed the dog etc.  In the car this song came on, and I cried.  Still do.

 

 

Dublin 1029

TECallcard

Back in 1988 when life was miserable and Ireland languished in recession the government was looking for any reason for a celebration.  A historian uncovered a document indicating that the Norse King of Dublin, Glúniairn, recognized Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill as High King of Ireland and agreed to pay tribute/taxes to him in the year 988.

He was not the first Viking King of Dublin.  Dublin was probably established by the Vikings in 839.  Using 988 as a “foundation” date is somewhat strange.  It is more properly the date on which the Irish Gaels established nominal control over the city.  But such niceties were lost on the downtrodden miserable debt ridden Dubliners of 1988.  When the government of the day offered to stump up for a party the population were happy to pretend that it was a millennial celebration.  1,000 years of taxes, hurray!

In 1988 I worked for the Irish national telephone company, Telecom Eireann.  It was previously the Government Department of Posts and Telegraphs.  This was split in 1984 into An Post and Telecom Eireann.  The latter no longer exists.  It was broken up and sold in the interests of competition, better services for consumers, lower prices etc.  This is why I don’t have decent broadband in my home.  So much for the better services.

The Mobile phone arm of the company, Eircell, was sold to Vodafone in the 1990’s.  In 1996 Denis O’Brien won a second Mobile phone operating licence for ESAT Telecom.  The Minister for Telecommunications at the time was a Tipperary politician called Michael Lowry.  There were rumours of dodgy dealings which were eventually investigated by the Moriarty Tribunal.   The Moriarty Tribunal found in 2008 that the awarding of the licence was influenced by payments made by O’Brien to Michael Lowry.

In the last general election in Ireland Michael Lowry topped the poll yet again in the Tipperary constituency, which says everything you need to know about Irish voter attitudes to probity in public office.  Denis O’Brien lives as a tax exile, but still has unrivalled access to business opportunities under government control, such as the recent award to provide water meters.  Given the findings of the Moriarty tribunal one would seriously question why any politician would have dealings with such a businessman, unless they aim to profit as Lowry did.

One of the hot new services we pioneered in the 1980s was the Call Card.  Instead of using pesky money to make your phone call in the public payphone you could buy an all new singing and dancing call card.  The photo above shows the millennium celebration limited edition Telecom Eireann call card from 1988.

Today you would be lucky to find a public payphone, let alone find one that works.

If my career in Telecomms taught me anything it taught me this; there are some things that should not be privatized.  Never privatize a network, that applies to road, rail, power, water, communications, information.  Keep them public, let them serve the common good.

That’s my rant over for today.  Happy Birthday Dublin, 1029 years old today…… or 1178 years old, depending on the government of the day.

Milkbottle

Dublin Milkbottle: Another thing we have no more.

Spam

Spam_can

July 5th 1937 saw the launch of a new product, a long lasting tinned pork and ham product called SPAM.  SPAM has sold billions of tins.  It is everywhere (apart from the Middle East/ North African Muslim countries).

The pervasive nature of SPAM was parodied in a 1970 sketch by Monty Python.

The word “Spam” began to be used by certain abusive users of early chatrooms in the 1980s to scroll other users off the screen by repeating the word “Spam” hundreds of times.  They then moved to insert large blocks of text from Monty Python sketches to disrupt chats.  They became known as “spammers”.

Spam and Eggs are used as metasyntactic variables in the Python programming language, released in 1991, which is named after Monty Python.

By 1993 the term Spamming was used to describe the multiple reposting of the same message, often for marketing purposes.  In the days of dial-up connections and painfully slow load speeds such “flaming logo” posts prevented access to chatrooms and caused widespread frustration.

By 1998 the word Spam had entered the Oxford dictionary to describe unsolicited marketing messages.

Since 2000 spam messages have been responsible for infecting computer systems with virus software, bugs, worms, Trojans and ransomware.  2017 has become the year of ransomware with large scale attacks on older Microsoft systems running with out of date protection or unsupported software.

 

 

Happy Birthday Kris Kristofferson

Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash

Born in 1936 on this day Kris Kristofferson is well known as an actor and singer.  He was also a song writer and a pretty good lyricist.  I am not a big fan of Country & Western music but when it’s good it’s good.

I remember a few years back when Maurice Pratt was head honcho in Super Crazy Prices, the supermarket chain that evolved from Quinnsworth and was subsequently taken over by Tesco in Ireland.  Maurice did an interview on radio about his career in marketing that always stuck with me.  When he was asked what his favourite song was he nominated “Sunday Morning Sidewalk”.  Made famous by Johnny Cash, the “Man in Black” the song was penned by Kristofferson.  Reading the lyrics you may wonder what kind of life Maurice Pratt was living.

But Maurice said it was not the words themselves that he loved, but the sentiment.  Working in the Supermarket industry he was a busy man 6 days a week and an early riser.  His Sunday mornings were the times he could chill for a while and they were precious to him.  For Maurice “Sunday Morning Sidewalk” is not about the booze and cigarettes of the night before.  It is all about the Sunday Morning vibe, not having to go out onto those “Sleeping City Sidewalks” unless it’s for your Sunday Paper.

Sunday Morning Sidewalk; by Kris Kristofferson

 

Well I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt
And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert
Then I fumbled in my closet for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt
And I washed my face and combed my hair And stumbled down the stair to meet the day

I’d smoked my head the night before with cigarettes and songs I’d been pickin’
But I lit my first and watched the small kid playin’ with a can that he was kickin’
Then I crossed the empty street and caught The Sunday smell of someone’s fryin’ chicken
And it took me back to somethin’ that I’d lost somewhere somehow along the way.

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down

In the park I saw a daddy with the laughing little girl that he was swinging
And I stopped beside a Sunday school and listened to the songs they were singing
Then I headed up the street and somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringing
And it echoed through the canyons like the disappearing dreams of yesterday

On a Sunday morning sidewalk I’m wishing Lord that I was stoned
Cause there’s somethin’ in a Sunday makes the body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’ half as lonesome as the sound
Of the sleeping city sidewalk Sunday morning coming down