Friday, November 28, 2008

The Government Breaking Dodgy Hairdo

Harney: Did that hairdo cost $400

A hairdo could be at hand to save the Irish Health Service.
Yes indeed, despite clinging on when her party dissolved beneath her; despite passing the buck on every occasion tragic errors were made in diagnosis and people died; despite acknowledging that things are a mess and that the aim is to have a good health service - not now - but in the future; despite being roundly criticised for planning a two tier private and public system which will allow entrepreneurs make money from the illness of Irish citizens; despite planning a new children’s hospital in an area with not one green space and in a location crippled with traffic; despite planning to close St Luke’s Hospital, the only cancer hospital in Dublin with beautiful green spacd around it; despite making such a plan without informing those who have raised millions for St Luke’s thereby allowing them to continue their fundraising not knowing what’s going on; despite planning eight new ‘Centres of Excellence’ without one of them being planned north of a line from Galway to Dublin; despite it all, it’s a hairdo that could undo Health Minister Mary Harney.

Ireland’s State Training Agency - FAS - is already embroiled in scandal.
For reasons that aren’t quite clear to anybody, it’s now former boss, Rody Molloy, seemed to believe that when he flew to see some project at NASA in Florida on which some Irish apprentices are working, he was entitled to a first class ticket which cost about six grand.
No. We are not training astronauts or planning our own space programme. Well, as far as I know we’re not. (Gee. Hadn’t thought that maybe, what with this government, I mean... Nah. Not possible)
This, in turn, he traded in for two business class tickets so that he could bring his wife in comfort.
He had already placed a colleague, who had a multi-million euro advertising budget - on sick leave for months over questions that need to be answered regarding that money.
And, at the end of it all really, he was facing something of a torrid time at a Dail (Parliament) Committee looking into FAS and some of the other, many state agencies.
So he quit. And didn’t turn up.
But one of the things to emerge, not at the committee, but in the media, largely through Senator Shane Ross in the Sunday Independent is that, on one of these Florida junkets - ministers went on five of them - someone got a hairdo for $400 or more.
The hair, it appeared, was done some time in 2005.
And so, when the question of the hairdo was raised in the Dåil, Ms Harney sat there. She way well have been scratching her head.
Fact is, the previous year, it was SHE who had that hairdo. And she knew it. And she kept schtum.
FAS is unravelling. And there is little doubt that it will not be the only state agency exposed in the coming months.
Why nothing ‘til now?
Because hunter and gamekeeper are equal in FAS.
Five trade unionists. Five business representatives on the board.
And they will all, please God, be undone by a hairdo.
And a dodgy one at that.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Right Now, 703 Hours To Go. SO FEEL CHRISTMASSY!!!

Is it Christmassy at all this year?
To listen to a lot of people ‘round me - and I AM in hospital - it seems not.
And I’m not talking about other patients. Nurses, cleaners, caterers. They all say there’s something missing.
Yes, the lights on Grafton Street are - at last - magical, they say.
Yes, the tree on O’Connell Street - entirely made of eco-friendly lights - is stunning.
And no, Brown Thomas have not turned off the music from their window display despite some busy body apparently complaining about ‘noise pollution.’ Kind of idiot who would have called health and safety to the stable in Bethlehem...
Something, they say is missing.

Nobody can quite put their finger on it.
It’s not the ‘downturn’ in the economy.
It’s not the recession.
It’s not the inept government.
It’s not the income levy.
It’s not the medical card scandal or any other scandal.
It’s not watching the documentary about Bertie in which he reveals himself - accidentally it has to be said - as a greedy, grubby, grabby, less than honest, ruthless egomaniac, created by and surrounded by a distasteful mafia of thugs and manipulators. (Mind you, when I put it like that....)
But I know what it is.
And I’ll tell you why people don’t feel Christmassy.
It’s inside them.
I feel Christmassy. I’m stuck in hospital and I feel Christmassy.
Because I’m the guy who says, on Stephen’s Day: Only 364 days to go.
I’m the guy who on Thursday will stop counting the days and start counting the hours.
I’m the guy who gets so excited I’ll soon be in need of blood pressure tablets.
And I was like that long before little Charlotte arrived to make things ten, twenty - a hundred times more exciting.
It’s Christmas, for God’s sake.
And while it is of course overly commercial these days, I for one can enjoy that aspect of it and still remember what it’s actually about.
It is about one of the most exciting, wonderful things that ever happened on this planet.
It is about joy.
It is about hope.
It is about love.
It is about how wonderful life is.
So, please. Tell me.
How can you NOT feel Christmassy.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Most Embarrassing Thing To Happen To Anyone Ever And It Happened To Me

If there is one thing you learn by being a ‘regular’ patient in hospital, it is to leave your dignity at the door.
If you don’t, every time they have to do something unspeakable to you, you will suffer more than is necessary.
For years, I tried to keep my dignity. Difficult when you’re having a barium enema or a colonoscopy.
It was actually in hospital, that the most embarrassing event of my life - and I would suggest if it happened to anyone else it would qualify as their most embarrassing moment too - occurred when I was just twelve years of age.

I had been out in the magnificent Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry for the day, with the Blackrock College scout troop.
We had been building a rope bridge over the river.
And big eejit here, volunteered to climb a tree to secure a rope.
The rope was secure all right.
The branch on which I was standing was no such thing.
It snapped. And I fell maybe two metres landing with a thump on my coccyx - that little bit at the base of the spine which, I am told, used to be a tail.
I managed to hike back to the bus with the other boys.
But once I was home, the pain became progressively worse. And so my father drove me to Stephen’s Green, then the site of St Vincent’s Hospital.
We headed for Accident and Emergency - but our path was interrupted by a doctor, known to my father, who redirected us to a private x-ray facility.
My father was less than gruntled. Now he had to pay even though, in those days, there was no waiting in A&E.
I was told to wait in this little cubicle - and after a little while, a female voice called my name.
I emerged to find a pretty woman, aged about 20 or so and dressed in a kind of green overall.
“Patrick Murray? she asked.
I confirmed my identity.
“I will be doing your x-ray. So. We’ll get ready.”
Now, in those days, boys of twelve were actually boys of twelve, not twenty like today. So I had no interest in this woman - other than being slightly embarrassed by having to deal with her in the first place, by having nobody else present and having to make conversation with her.
“Right,” she said after filling in some form or other. “Into the cubicle, take your clothes off and put on this gown. She handed me a blue gown.
It might as well have been Joseph’s coat of many colours.
Because one phrase was rattling ‘round my head.
“Take your clothes off.”
I wanted to die. I wanted to faint. I wanted to go home.
I went into the cubicle, dazed.
I removed my clothes and put on the gown.
“Are you ready?” she called.
I nodded.
“Right. Up on the table and lie on your back first,” she said.
I lay up on the table and she moved the big x-ray above my head.
“Now,” she said. “Open the gown.”
She said “open the gown.”
I couldn’t believe it. Open the gown.
I closed my eyes and opened the gown.
I lay there. Naked as the day I was born.
Me. Twelve years of age. Naked in front of a woman. And a pretty one at that.
I wanted to cry. I wanted it all to go away.
Then I thought I heard a stifled giggle.
I opened my eyes and saw her with a look on her face that suggested she was a) amused b) surprised and c) terribly sorry for me.
“Ah,” she said with a voice that suggested I was a little bit pathetic.
“You could have kept your underpants on.”

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008


We in Ireland are without leaders.
As the rest of the world figures out what to do about the current economic crisis, our lot is dithering and prevaricating. And as that happens, it's all going down the pan.
So we reacted quickly to protect the banks.
Did it save jobs? No.
Did it put manners on banks?
God help them, Bank of Ireland only made €4m a day in the first six months of the year. And it's still paying vast sums to its bosses.
Mind you, we're still paying vast sums to ours. Your average TD is pulling in damned close to €200,000 a year when you take in unvouched expenses, turning up money and what not.
Is there, do you think, something amiss when the world's (you'd have to say self-styled_ Top Twenty Leaders decide that the best way out of this mess is to borrow and spend and our lot decides the best way out is to stifle the economy by raisins both direct and indirect taxes.
The end result will be, we can presume, that we prosper while the rest of the world languishes in poverty or...
Well, if I had money I'd not be putting it on us to prosper.
So why are our leaders not leading?
It is largely because they don't know what to do.
They clearly don't want to recapitalise banks for fear of offending them.
The banks don't want the government/us to have a shareholding - and so they continue their lie that all is well.
It's like they're afraid what we'll find out if we're allowed in the door.
And the reason for that is, they're afraid what we'll find out if we're allowed in the door.
They have been throwing our money about recklessly and they can't get it back because it no longer exists.
And what's this nonsense about not super taxing the super rich? What in God's name have they done for us except take our money and invest it abroad?
If they are tax exiles let them be tax exiles.
And charge them every time they land in the country, not for more than 100 days of whatever.
Charge them vast sums. Tax them. Get the money back.
And if they don't like it and they don't come back, whose loss is it?
Our non-leaders are in awe of the rich - no wonder the dosh they've throwing about generally in the direction of politicians and political parties.
At least, I think - hope - we have the good sense to send that right wing, borderline fascist, friend of the anti-immigration Euro sceptic Declan Ganley packing off back to Britain, the country the passport of which suited him for years.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Back In Hospital - But Every Cloud...

You're probably fed up with me writing about being in hospital.
Not, I can guarantee you, as fed up as I am being in hospital.
Fourth time this year.
If you follow this blog, you will know that I have had a Bone Marrow Transplant.
That happened in May.
The reason it happened is because, in January, I had the most awful tumour on my foot - I have a thing called Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma - and a rare version of it at that - and it was decided, by me, on advice that the transplant was the way to go.
So that was on May 14.
And it was, more or less a breeze.
Now, when you have a serious medical procedure and it is 'more or less a breeze' you should look in the mirror, tell you're self you're a fool and get yourself ready.

Because if it's a breeze it either a) hasn't worked or b) the hurricane is on the way.
And the hurricane was on the way.
100 days after the transplant, I received a thing called DLI - Donor Lymphocyte Infusion. That's when part of the donor's blood is put directly into mine.
The purpose is, partly, to provoke a little bit of rejection. Which it did. Because a little bit of rejection means that the new bone marrow will begin the battle against the old and, hopefully win.
The battle is still raging.
But on top of that, my little daughter Charlotte got the vomiting bug, a 48 hour thing.
And brains trust here decided the best place for her, was in the bed beside me.
That's despite being told to avoid crowded places in case anyone in the crowd has a cold or anything else I might pick up, me with my immune system less mature than my two-year-olds'.
So crowds, I avoided, but the two year old with the bug, I pulled close beside me to comfort her.
And I got her bug.
Hers cleared up in 48 hours, as 48 hour bugs have a tendency to do.
Mine is with me three weeks so far and being viral, has every chance of extending its stay for another three or four.
My doctor doesn't get angry at me often.
But on this occasion, she was seething.
You see, I think she was operating under the illusion that I had a brain.
So here I am, stuck in hospital. Again.
And if there's one good thing about it, it's this.
I have no appetite.
And so I'm not eating the food.
Every cloud, they say...

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's The Small Things

Did you ever get annoyed about small things?
You know the way.
You walk in to your supermarket. You know you need mushrooms. And so you go to where the mushrooms are. Only they’re not.
Because some genius has moved the vegetables to the other side of the supermarket, and where there once were mushrooms, there is now a large supply of dairy products.
Except for the milk. Because they moved the milk.

Now, this all happens after you had trouble finding a parking space because the last one for parent and child - your child is right now sitting in the trolley trying to reach those dairy products - was taken by a smart-arse in an SUV who, when asked where his child was hadn’t the wit to say in the shop with his mother but instead came up with that age old retort: f*** o**.
You watched and you waited and found three more parkers in parent and child spaces who were entirely without children.
Two used the same retort.
The third apologised.
Small things.
It’s a small thing too that our national television station here, RTE, has, in an effort to squeeze in more ads, has taken to chopping the credits from the end of movies.
No closing music.
No wondering if that mafia guy who was in that brief scene is the same guy who starred in three episodes of Friends. No finding out who was singing what song or what the song was.
Just a graphic - THE END. That’s all.
And sometimes it comes so quickly, you miss the last few seconds of the movie.
Small things.
Like resoluble packs of rashers.
They’re not.
If they don’t rip when you’re opening them - they invariably do - they just don’t stick back when you go to stick them back and you end up wrapping the entire thing in cling film.
Small things.
Like ads that insult your intelligence by comparing it with washing powder.
“Contains intelligent stain seekers.” No it doesn’t.
And ads that make up scientific names.
And ads that have women comparing their washing. Or people dancing in kitchens.
Or dubbed ads.
I will never buy anything that has been pushed at me with a dubbed at.
Or those blackmail ones. Buy Ariel and we’ll supply a litre of clean water to African children.
Buy Pampers and we’ll supply vaccines to African children.
No. I won’t buy your products.
Just bloody do it. You have the money.
Small things.
Like celebrities endorsing things.
Does anyone actually believe they’d be endorsing shampoo and washing powder and perfume and clothes and furniture if they weren’t paid to do it?
Does anyone actually stay in whatever hotel it is because Lenny Henry does? Or buy dishwasher tablets because Aynsley Harriot does?
Small sad things.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your Bank Is Defrauding You

I think the vast majority of people in the world have learned no longer to trust banks.
Here, they have cocked up more than often and had to repay money to customers.
One bank was even advising its customers to tax dodge - and one of the people doing that is now, astonishingly, an elected member of the Dáil. Third World behaviour or what?
Anyway, I am trying at present to expose, through the newspaper in which I work, the current fraud being perpetrated by Irish banks on their customers.

You see daily, how banks and stockbrokers and financial institutions of all sorts and kinds, trade shares and currencies on the worlds exchanges.
They can move billions in nanoseconds. Shares can rise and fall by huge percentages in the blink of an eye.
And yet, and yet....
If you use the banks’ online services, something they encourage you to do, you will find that things there aren’t the same at all.
Because if you wish to transfer money from an account in one bank to an account in another, it takes an incredible, unbelievable and frankly farcical three days.
Well, some of it does.
Because the account from which the money is being transferred, is debited immediately. In one of those nanoseconds.
And for three days, the bank holds onto that money or, rather, probably invests it at the inter bank rate along with the tens of thousands of other sums, large and small, which are being transferred from an account in one bank to an account in another.
Look at this nonsense explanation from what is laughingly called Ireland’s ‘Financial Regulator.”
“All online transactions would have to go through the clearing system for security and fraud prevention purposes. Online transactions consist of a matching of a debit and credit. The debit is paid immediately and the credit is normally paid immediately if it is destined for an account in the same bank. However, the credit might take several working days if it is destined for another bank.”
Nonsense. Rubbish.
And if it was true, we could all cripple the banking system by asking them, under the Data Protection Act, what they did, how they did it and what they found.
Am I really expected to believe, that when my partner transferred €200 to me - and it was taken from her account in one of those nanoseconds - that someone or something spent three days checking for security and fraud prevention?
And even if they did - which I can assure you they didn’t - why was it necessary to take the money from her account until the procedure was finished?
Because they snaffle the money, that’s why. Because they steal it for three days, that’s why.
And we’re the mugs.
We’re the fools as usual.
And I think something should be done about it.
Bad enough what the banks have done to the world.
No reason to let them away with this.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Economic Analysis Which May Not Be Correct But Is Easy To Understand

I studied commerce in college.
No. Wait.
I tell a lie.
I was in the commerce faculty in college.
I actually went to seven lectures during the entire year. (Well, there was this girl, and she was free during my lectures and....)
And I didn't like any of them.
So maybe that's why this whole world economic situation has me utterly baffled.
OK. I get the bit about how our government made a complete hash of things by chucking money at its builder and developer mates to build houses and apartments which, it turns out, nobody actually wants.
And I get the bit about how, even through we were, briefly, amongst the richest countries in the world, we managed not to build a decent road between either Dublin and Cork or Dublin and Rosslare/Waterford.

We did manage to build a road to the border. But that had nothing to do with infrastructure. That was, wasn't it, to do with something called 'the peace dividend' or some other such rot.
But the world is in turmoil. Nobody seems to have money. Those who have it - banks don't you know - are holding onto it like grim death and won't lend it to anyone.
Thousands are losing their jobs in Ireland. Hundreds of thousands in the US. Millions, apparently, in China.
You see, with my basic knowledge of economics (it was my best subject. I got 25 per cent) I know that the money is still somewhere.
It's possible that there is a large stash of it in the safe of our former 'leader' Bertie Ahern.
But really, it is somewhere. It's not like someone burned it.
It's not like a euro or a dollar or a pound suddenly went the way of the Zimbabwe dollar and became worthless.
The money is about.
And so we can guarantee all the bank assets we like, chuck our money at them if we wish and cosy up to their overpaid, underachieving, cruel, greedy bosses and the good it will do it is nil.
We want the money.
We want it back in circulation.
We want developers to release money even if they have to sell land and buildings at a loss. Make them do it. That's what banks do to unfortunates when they take their homes from them. They force them to sell because they want their money.
Well, we want their money.
If governments can't force banks to release money, to realise assets to get money, to behave, well then, what's the point in democracy?
What's the point is us voting?
What's the point in Barak Obama if he can't make banks do what they should do, what they morally must do?
That's it.
Economic analysis from a buy who got 25 in economics, 15 in maths and 0 - yes zero - in accountancy.
Makes sense to me.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Farwell McCain, Palin, Hypocrisy, Spite and of course Dumbya

And so, it's farewell to John McCain and Sarah Palin and the dumber than dumb Dumbya and the odious Dick Cheney.
While the election of the first African American to the Presidency of the United States is wonderful beyond the dreams of most who remember the bad days of apartheid in America, the election of Goofy would have been preferable to the election of John McCain.
He presented himself as a kind of honest John. But he's no such thing. He knew all about the bile being spread by his supporters. He knew and did nothing. Until he thought it was doing him damage.
In fairness. he did one good thing.
He chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Thank God he did.
The damage she did him was fatal.
What a dope.
If anything had happened McCain, had he been elected, had he popped his clogs, there would have been yet another idiot running the United States.
God help us, it might even have become a tradition. Things have a habit of becoming traditions quite quickly in the States, don't they?
And thank God too that the selfish egomaniac Ralph Nader didn't register at all this time. His 'open letter' to Barak Obama after the results were confirmed is bitter, nasty and ungracious.
Having cost Al Gore the Presidency, you would think Nader would hide under a rock.
But no. Off he was again trying to do damage.
Anyway, you have to laugh at Sarah Palin.
You do.
She thinks a) she's going to be the Republican candidate in four year's time and b) she's going to win.
Not a snowball's chance in a hot oven.
Not only does she have an IQ in single figures (which doesn't mean she's not cute enough to get where she's got), she is a bad ad for everything and anything decent, American and Christian.
She is part of that Christian fundamentalist movement which is every bit as dangerous as any other fundamentalist movement. And that's very.
It's over now. The winner has won.
And while there is much about Barak Obama to admire, while there is much to hope for under his coming presidency, there is much he says and does to which I, and others who laud his election, are opposed.
But you can't have everything.
And change won't just be the change Barak Obama wants.
For now, let's just enjoy the fact that McCain and Palin are consigned to history as footnotes.
That Dubya can go off and spend his dotage playing with Play Doh. If he's up to it.
That Dick Cheney can go off and count his ill gotten gains and shoot a few more of his mates.
And maybe, just maybe, the world might be a better place.

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