Monday, August 15, 2011

Let them eat ... bread

This evening on the way home from work I had to stop off into the supermarket to pick up a few items. Normally I just lob the groceries in the basket, paying no attention to the prices, and then hand over my hard earned cash. This evening though, for some reasons I noticed something a bit odd while picking up some bread.

Normally we get through about 3/4 of a sliced pan before it goes stale and starts turning a bit blue. So being my environmentally conscious self I had a look to see if they had any small pans on the shelf. Usually by 6pm the few that were delivered that morning are well gone but today I was in luck. There on the top shelf was a small Brennan's (non batch) waiting to find a new home. Yoink says I, until I noticed the price sticker underneath - €1.39. Casting a downwards glance I see plenty of full sized loaves prices at €1.60.

Now with my ostentatious cash splashing and jet-set lifestyle I shouldn't really be quibbling over 21c but it does strike me as odd that pro-rata the full sized loaf should cost 67% more or the half sized 43% less. I can accept that there are economies of scale in the larger loaf. I imagine that about 90% of bread is sold in the larger form factor. But is the cost differential really that much? While it uses about 15% more packaging per kg, it takes up the same amount of shelf space.

So who is pocketing the margin? Is it the bakeries or the retailers? Or is it just a case of this is what the market is willing to bear? To make this post even slightly political, one wonders was this price differential always the case, even in the era of the Grocieries Order. If not, then Micheál Martin has to bear some responsibility for this fiasco. I'll just add it to his long list of failures.

So in the end I put the small pan back on the shelf and took the large one. It's better value for money even if I know I'll end up putting the last few slices into the brown bin at the weekend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The UK riots

I was in the process of writing a blog post comparing three locations I had recently been in the UK, namely London, Nottingham and Bradford, when the rioting broke out. I'll come back to that topic eventually but feel that writing some thoughts about the current situation is more urgent.

The original peaceful protest on Saturday afternoon/evening in Tottenham was fully understandable. The community felt that one of their own had been unnecessarily killed and wanted to mark their feelings. How we got from there to sporadic burning, looting and general mayhem in multiple locations within the London and indeed around the UK is beyond understanding. Any answer to the question that can fit within the confines of a blog post is going to be glib and miss many of the potential points. However, that's what blogs do so I'll at least try to hit some points.

The original riot may have been in response to Mark Duggan's killing but to my mind the following two evenings have been mainly copy-cat vandalism and thuggery rather than a traditional riot with a political or social injustice dimension. Sure, those carrying out the acts are mainly male youths from disadvantaged areas but look at what the targets are: mobile phone, sports and technology shops. All items either of status or reasonably high resale value.

But why do people feel that they should carry out such acts? Marginalization from society? Poverty? Lack of civic responsibility? Lack of fear of being caught? Adrenaline rush and a herd mentality? Probably a mixture of all of the above. There are solutions to these but they take time to implement. Despite all my socialist tendencies, reality says that a society will never be fully equal but efforts have to be made to heal the rift between the top and bottom. Even using this language makes me feel ick. Those with nothing have to be brought into the fold and those with everything have to be made give a shit about others. It's not good enough to sit back and tut-tut.

The response by the police may not have been great, but given their numbers and the number of concurrent incidents it may have been deemed safer to let the looters run their course and contain the damage rather than clamp down. The right decision was made to leave the army off the streets. They are not specifically trained to deal with these situations and introducing firearms into the mix would only have ended badly. It was also right to not bail in with baton charges and tear gas. This would only piss off the communities and bystanders and turn them against the police rather than keep their anger and frustration pointed at the rioters.

The biggest fear is that these events are just the start of something more serious. If a body count starts mounting you can be sure the extreme fringes on all sides will get more vocal. The last group we need to be hearing from right now is the BNP or the radical muslim clerics stoking up further tension.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The continuing Norris saga

So as expected, TDs who had previously committed to supporting David Norris have now started to withdraw support. Finian McGrath led the charge, quickly followed by John Halligan and Thomas Pringle. It really does appear as if the campaign is now in its final days or even hours. Since my last blog post on Saturday night a few more issues have come up that I want to address.

One comment suggested that I was holding Norris to a higher standard than any of the other candidates. To quote Brian Lenihan, I don't accept that at all. The president is the leading citizen of the country and has to be held to a higher standard. I mentioned Bobby Molloy's and Kathleen Lynch's stupid interventions previously. Add to that list Charlie Flanagan, Tony Kileen and even Trevor Sargent who did equally stupid things. But none of them are running for President. If Mary Davis, Sean Gallagher or MDH made equally ill-advised submissions to courts then I'd be taking them to task also.

And then there's Gay Mitchell. He is another person who made a submission to a court. While I haven't seen the original document, I gather that it was to a court in Florida asking for a death sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment for a man convicted of a double murder in pursuit of his anti-abortion agenda. This was done while Mitchell was Fine Gael Foreign Affairs spokesman. This again is interference in the judicial affairs of a foreign state and is again unacceptable unless it is FG policy to plea for clemency in every capital case. But I doubt it is. This case played to Mitchell's religious right, Iona Institute buddies and so the letter was sent.

There is still the ongoing Zionist agenda stuff doing the rounds too. Occam's razor kicks in at some point. The case was over ten years ago, reported on in newspapers and Norris has even spoken about it on radio interviews. It doesn't take the Illuminati to hide his submission for a decade and a half before releasing it at the right moment. It was out there waiting to be found but nobody went looking. Blame lazy journalism, blame lack of interest, but don't channel Jim Corr and invent a worldwide conspiracy against Norris.

Finally, if Norris withdraws, that puts 15 nominations back in play. Will there be another candidate put forward by that group? Or by the ULA/SF? Except that I think his health might get in the way I'd make an approach to Christy Moore. He's a strong lefty, republican but in a clean way and extremely popular across the country. That would certainly put the cat amongst the political pigeons.

PS - thanks to all for reading. Previous blog post was my 2nd most read post in almost two years of this carry on.