I’m voting Green. Here’s why…

We’re just coming to the end of three weeks of a fascinating political election campaign here in Ireland. Fascinating that is if you’re a political anorak. The big election is on Thursday and the two main blocks seem to be neck and neck with a hung Dáil a possibility.

People have asked how I’m voting and the answer is Green. The reactions are often skeptical or surprise. “Green? They won’t win.” They won’t win? Of course they won’t bloody win! Heck, they don’t even have enough candidates to form a Government!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no a sandle wearing hippy; I voted Fianna Fáil last time (but to be fair – there was no credible opposition at the time). I’m voting Green because:

  1. I want Green policies implemented by the next Government: the only way to make that happen is to ensure that enough Green deputies are returned to the Dáil to put them in a position to help form the next Government;
     
  2. I don’t want to sound clichéd but I want a change in Government. Whether it’s small social organisations, multi-national companies or Government departments, they all have a leader. In our case, it’s the Taoseich and the Ministers and Junior Ministers that form the Government cabinet.
     
    And just like any walk of life, when the same people steer the ship they become complacent, lethargic and (as we’re seeing more and more) arrogant. That complacency and lethargy seeps through the ranks all the way to the bottom. Waste, mis-management, bad processes and “sticking to the status quo” become common place.
     
    A change of Government will put new Ministers in place. They will be enthusiastic and hands on. They will question the status quo. They will make new demands with new energy and vigor. Yes – it may take them some time to learn their brief in full but it’s at that enthusiastic time that they will question and poke the mandarins and the accepted norm.
     
  3. I’m worried about our economic future. Fianna Fáil would like us to believe that they are the only party with the credentials to manage the economy. They forget to mention that it was a labour Minister for Finance that gave us the first budget surplus in the nineties. They remind us that they had nine surpluses in ten years – is a surplus not as much of a mis-management than a deficit?
     
    But it’s not the ability to deliver a realistic budget that worries me – it’s our deadly dependency on petroleum. Did you know that we are dependent on imported fossil fuels for 90% of our energy requirements? Did you know that the cost if a barrel of crude oil has doubled in the lifetime of this Government? Did you know that we, the Irish tax payer, will pay over €500 million for carbon credits between 2008 and 2012? We’re the fourth more dependent country in the world on fossil fuels and our economy couldn’t currently exist without them – a commodity that is volatile, ever-decreasing in availability and ever-increasing in cost – we need to get away from fossil fuels.
     
    Through a variety of measures, the Greens will help reduce our carbon footprint. By reducing our carbon footprint, we reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. These measures include: new building standards which include heat efficiency; promotion (not advertising but through policy and financing) of renewable energy sources; pay as you use tax on car fuel (see below); real investment in public transport both in Dublin and around the country; joined up thinking for urban planning and, most importantly, they have an understanding and enthusiasm for tackling this dependency.
     
    My only concern here is that I’m not doing them justice in the above paragraph. Read their manifesto and energy policy yourselves.
     
  4. I’m sick of stupid planning decisions with out thought or regard to schools, public transport and other essential facilities.
     
  5. The end of car tax and VRT with the introduction of a pay as you go tax on petrol. This doesn’t seem to have gotten the public debate it deserves but it sounds ingenious to me. Cars cost so much money – both with VRT at the beginning and with tax, maintenance and insurance annually – people feel they have to use them. By reducing the annual cost and taxing on a per-use basis people may start reconsidering the car for some short trips.
     
    You know, I was out walking last night (strolling – not canvassing; I’m not a member of any political party) and the numbers of houses trying to cram three or more cars into their driveways was starking. I was walking in Dublin 16 and 18; places where public transport should be effective but it simply isn’t for a lot of people. Many of these cars were impeding the footpaths and straggling already narrow roads. The owners of these cars are no doubt wasting their lives away sitting in traffic this morning. A lot of these owners are also the children of the home owners who cannot afford to get a home of their own. These are bad legacies of our current Government (they do have good legacies too; I’m not blinkered). Hopefully with the Green’s combined policies and a role in Government, this situation will help reverse itself.
     
  6. Here’s a great one from their manifesto: carry out a feasibility study into the State re-taking control of Eircom, divesting any commercial operation, and maintaining the fixed line network as an open access infrastructure to all operators. As someone who has worked in the telecommunications sector for an OLO (Other Licensed Operator), I see first hand the disastrous decision it was to sell off Eircom. Think about the assets and infrastructure – at a minimum you have a copper pair into every premise in Ireland that has been built up over more than a hundred years. And we now have a commercial organisation more interested in their profits that the countries badly needed broadband infrastructure for the growth of our “knowledge economy”. Green Party, I hope you find a way to CPO their asses!
     
    By the way – if any member of Government defends that decision remind them that they are now trying to do it the correct way with the ESB: sell off the retail arm but retain control of the infrastructure and assets. Once bitten, twice shy? Or have they simply learnt from their disastrous mistake.
     
  7. Just to finish up, there is one more policy that I think is long overdue: no more corporate donations to political parties. For a modern, honest and impartisan Government, this is a policy that is long overdue. I am a strong democratic. I believe in politics and I’m not apathetic or ignorant to the very very hard work that politicians do. I believe the political parties should be 100% funded by the public exchequer. Then they’ll really work for us free of outside influences.

By voting Green you will help ensure that have a mandate sufficient to put them in a coalition Government and the stronger the mandate they receive, the greater their negotiating position for their policies.

Voting Green doesn’t get you a Green Government, but it does get you some Green policy implemented in Government. If we can even get some of the above implemented, I believe we’ll all be better off.

Now, the obligitory party political broadcast. The theme is clear:



Make room PLEASE!

I had to get the Dart last Wednesday as I was going to the Irish match in Croker. It was rush hour and I experienced what I face the very odd time I get the Luas when I don’t cycle to the office: assholes clogging the door.

It seems to be an Irish mentality to congregate around the doors in case you get trapped. I’ve used public transport in New York for months a few years ago and believe me, they’d go through you for a shortcut if you were blocking the doors. I wouldn’t mind if the bloody Dart/Luas was full, but there’s plenty of room mid-carriage.

I was once on the Luas at rush hour (having squashed my way through these same assholes to centre-carriage) when a man tried to get on a couple of stops later. There was plenty of room around me but the area around the doors was wedged. He shouted for people to move into the carriage… no one moved. In fact, they made faces at each other to indicate that this guy was a nutter.

He was nothing of the sort. He was dead fucking right. Next time I’ll go through you assholes for a shortcut. Make room PLEASE!

Is It Anyone’s Business Whether or Not I Read Their E-mail?

I got an e-mail today from a third-party on behalf of a mutual customer. This person wanted to remind me that his e-mail to me the day before “was opened 22 mins 7 seconds after [he] sent it to [me]” and he was wondering if I had made any progress.

How did he know that? There was no message box advising me that the sender had requested a read receipt and asking if I wanted to send it. There was however a warning from my e-mail client (KMail) advising me that there were external references embedded in the HTML e-mail message. Like a fool, I disregarded this warning and clicked to display these references the first time around.

When I got his reminder I went back and examined the HTML content. At the end of the message was a link to an image on http://img.msgtag.com/. When this image is loaded, it notifies the sender that their mail has been opened along with the time elapsed from sending the mail to when it was eventually opened. MSGTAG is the company that provides this service in this instance.

I was annoyed about this. Damned annoyed. Someone e-mailing me had surreptitiously embedded an external image in an e-mail to for the express purpose of identifying when I opened his mail _without_ my permission and in violation of my privacy. It’s nobody’s damned business when or even if I have read their e-mails.

That information should be requested via the long established mechanism of requesting read receipts allowing the recipient to decide whether or not to notify the sender that their message has been read. In my case it’s not that hugh an issue – generally speaking I would not load external references. But what about the 90% or more of less informed users who would or whose clients wouldn’t even ask first?

With my somewhat limited knowledge of the Data Protection Act I am quite convinced that this is in breach of it. I’m not a lawyer and would love the opinion of one on this.

What will your good deed be today?

The Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is the statutory body of the Irish State that is charged with all aspects of the collection, processing and distribution of blood supplies and related products. Unlike some other countries, all blood donated in Ireland is purely voluntary with the only reward being a sense of altruism.

Last Friday they made a special request as the national blood stock was low and all elective surgeries throughout the country had to be cancelled. The response from the public was immense and stocks are quickly returning to normal.

They still need more – this week and every week. If you are looking to tick off your good deed for today then consider dropping into a local donation clinic.

I gave my eleventh donation in just under four years yesterday. And I won’t lie to you. It’s not fun. But it’s also not torture. The best description would be “not pleasent”. And the feeling of having done something good for nothing cannot be bought. If you hate needles as much as I do then you’d be allowed tick off a full week’s worth of good deeds!

In the words of the IBTS’s Thank You card:

A blood donation costs nothing but gives much,
it enriches those who receive
without making poor those who give.

It happens in a flash
but the memory of that gift will last forever.

None is so rich and mighty that it can get along without it
and none is so poor
that it cannot be made rich by it.

It cannot be bought, begged borrowed or stolen
for a blood donation is of no earthly good to anyone
until it is given away.

1 out of every 4 of us reading this will need a blood transfusion at some point in our lives. It could be you.

Reactions to my Meteor Post

There were a couple of blog posts following up on my question regarding the apathy of Irish mobile users. In particular, there were pro-Meteor comments from David O’Neill who switched himself recently and, almost as a proof of my assertions, some mis-conceptions from Niall Sheridan (or this guy as he referred to me).

Niall made two points:

Cheap is relative. As with all mobile services it depends on who you’re calling. If you primarily ring Vodafone subscribers I guarantee that it won’t be that cheap.

Well let’s look at the facts. Taking the comparison of changes I made in my post for the similar evening time pre-pay plans, it is cheaper to ring all three networks from Meteor; i.e. it is more expensive to call from O2 to O2 or to call from Vodafone to Vodafone than it is to call from Meteor to O2 or Vodafone. In all cases at all times. Mind you, this is just one billing package but, from what I have seen, it is the trend.

Meteor’s current network is only as good as it is because portions of it aren’t Meteors’ at all – they’re O2’s and Vodafone’s. I’d love to know what level of coverage they would have if Both O2 and Vodafone stopped the service.

Another mis-conception. Firstly, Meteor does not use any part of Vodafone’s network. And, to my knowledge, never has. In September 2004 it did sign a coverage deal with O2 in parts of counties Kerry, Donegal, Mayo, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Roscommon, Longford & Clare. That’s in parts of twelve of the twenty-six counties. And it’s a temporary arrangement while Meteor continue to expand their coverage.

So what? All this does is ensure that Meteor’s own customers get full coverage around Ireland. What do I care if it means I use O2’s network in some remote parts of Ireland? I don’t care – especially as it means Meteor’s customers get to use O2’s network at prices that are cheaper than O2’s own customers.

Niall also went on to share a story of woe he had with Meteor regarding service withdrawl for non-payment and how long it took them to re-activate his account after he paid them. Well we all have tales of woe. I have a few of my own for O2. But as we all know, these are usually the exception and not the rule. I have rang Meteor customer care (for free – O2 and Vodafone charge you to do that) a few times and have found them comparable or better than my better conversations with O2.

Niall finishes with “[s]ure Meteor have some nice offers, like free voicemail and line rental…”. I would ask the average Irish mobile user whether they believe that this should be the norm or the exception?