Taking a bite out of Apple, what did the EEC ever do for us?

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Imagine someone handed you thirteen billion Euros, approximately £11 000 000 000, as the European Commission tried to do, claiming that Apple had acted illegally in Ireland and paid an effective Corporate tax rate of 50 Euros for every 1 000 000 Euros they took out of the country. In a deal known as the Double Irish, Apple claimed they did not take any money out of the country, but simply moved it between different offices with no staff and an online address of undertherainbow.com. This was perfectly legal they claimed as little people had been doing it for years. And with sleight of hand they pointed to the thousands of jobs they created, mainly in Cork, but not made of cork, but making things that people think they need, but really don’t.  You think that would be the end of it. Picking on the richest company in the world, just because you can isn’t really fair. Then there’s the Apple threat. The blight of those 6 000 jobs. They want to protect the little people too.

Well, some simple arithmetic here. Take the thirteen billion Euros and give it to the imaginary 6000 worker and then ask them what they’d rather have, their share in the Apple jackpot or a job, sometimes for the lucky punter, paying above the minimum wage?

In the real world of, course, that’s not the way it works. The Irish Government spokesman, finance minister, Michael Noonan, said he would appeal against the EEC’s ruling, because they were protecting the real interests of the little people, and begorrah, if multinationals wanted to create fake jobs with real money then Ireland was just the place to do it. Sure, didn’t they invent Guinness, which nobody likes but everybody drinks and claims is the greatest thing since Jesus walked on water.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, threatened Applexit from the EEC and has courted Boris Johnson, our Home Secretary, for campaign advice. That’s Irish.

S.E Hinton (2000 [1967]) The Outsiders

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It’s almost fifty years since The Outsiders was published. ‘The Original Teenage Rebel Story’ proclaims the tag on the cover. I’m sure William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet had the same banner headline, but in yeh olde worlde English. Hinton was only seventeen when she wrote it. And like fourteen-year old  Ponyboy, the first-person narrator, you can imagine her trying to impress her English teacher and scrape a better grade by turning a suggested five page exercise into a 218 pages of prose and a coming-of-age story that shows how American society is prejudiced against the poor and it’s rules and regulations favour the rich. A* for effort Ms Hilton.

Ponyboy is a ‘greaser’, his hair is ‘longer than a lot of boys. Most greasers ‘rarely bother to get a haircut’ and the grease their hair. East side is where the greasers live and hang out. ‘Greasers are almost like hoods, we steal things and drive old souped up cars’.  The Socs go to the same school but live on the West side and drive ‘tuff’ cars and wear ‘tuff’ clothes such as blue madrass shirts, but don’t have a tough life. Ponyboy is philosophical about the class differences, ‘I’m not saying that either Socs or greasers are better; that’s just the way things are’. Greasers pride themselves on how tuff and tough they are and stick together. And Socs do the same. When they meet in a rumble it’s the greasers that cop the blame, but they won’t back down, not for anybody.

Plotting is a big hitter. Bob the bully Soc, for example who busted up Johnny, the greaser, early in the narrative later pays a high price. Johnny knives and accidentally kills him trying to protect Ponyboy who’s being beaten up and half drowned,  but Johnny finds redemption by breaking his back, being badly burned and setting the world to rights, before melodramatically dying  saving some wee boys that are trapped in a derelict church that is burning down around their heads. In turn that drives a fellow greaser, super tuff Dally who looked out for little Johnny, over the edge.  Death by cop, which has a familiar ring to it.

Ponyboy explains it to himself and to the reader in a simple way. ‘Dally Watson wanted to be dead and he always got what he wanted.’

There are no blacks in the novel and it’s a male world with girls adding little more than decoration. It’s family that counts most. And with his mum and dad killed in an autowreck, Ponyboy acknowledges how hard it is for Darry, his twenty-year old brother, who works two jobs, to keep the family together. Happy-go-lucky Soda, who is sixteen, has dropped out of school, but is happy working in a garage. He  adds to a choir of voices that demand something different from Ponyboy. Twobit, one of their friends, for example, acknowledges that to be a greaser demands that ‘you get tough and you don’t get hurt’. But  for Ponyboy this translates differently. He demands that he get on and get out, give them something to be proud of. ‘Get smart and nothing can touch you.’

Hinton’s veiled coda is education is the route out of the greaser ghetto. That truth did hold true at that time, but like the idea that Bob the bully’s parents loved him too much and let him away with too much and if they’d loved him less and thrashed him more he wouldn’t have turned out the way he was and wouldn’t have died—well, these are ideas of a certain epoch. The American dream of working hard and playing hard and the world playing fair with you, died right there and then, at the cusp end of the sixties. Since then the tuffs are The Socs of society who have pretty much wiped the floor with the greasers in society. A sad but simple truth a rule for the rich and a rule for the poor, but as Ponyboy knows who rules and we don’t want sympathy, we just want to get even.

As Randy explains. ‘You can’t win, even if you whip up. You’ll still be where you were before – at the bottom’.

Yep, that sounds about right. Roll on super-tuff Reagan and Soc it to the rest of us greaser chumps.

Scotland’s Game, part one, Playing for Money. (Missing Person report: Where is David Murray?)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07pqpfp

missng Murray.jpgThe best thing for me about the Rio Olympics was it was on in the middle of the night because I didn’t need to watch it. Not that I would have. I couldn’t give a toss of your caber how many gold medals Britain racks up.  There’s only one sport, one club that I follow and one team I support, Glasgow Celtic. And I’m bigoted and bitter enough to remember comedians with eighties punchlines Loadsamoney and the mantra Greed it good, and David Murray, the darling of the media, the darling of the Ranger’s masses drawled that for every fiver put down, he’d put up  a tenner.

But let us not forget he met his match with the biscuit-tin mentality and the man with the checked bunnet, done it. Fergus McCann reminds us here, Celtic were 105 minutes away from extinction and the banks were calling in their loans and cashing in on Celtic’s assets of which there were two, Celtic Park and the gravel parks of Celtic’s training ground up the road at Barrowfield.  McCann had a plan and he’d the money to back up his rhetoric, £11 million in an account to shore up Celtic Public Limited Company. That was enough to save Celtic, ‘The Rebels have won’ (no pun intended) proclaimed Brian Dempsey in front of the stand at Parkhead.

But the rebels did not win at Rangers, or poor wee Gretna, or to save Livingstone, Hearts, Dunfermline, Motherwell or Dundee twice, from administration. The banks are always a banker to win.

Mc Cann’s plan was quite a simple one, put in £10 million and take out £60 million. He was quite upfront about that. And he was quite upfront about ‘never paying £10 million for a £5 million player’. Tore Andre Flo springs to mind. And for the record another damning statistic.  The league match between Celtic and Rangers on 04 October 2003 featured only one Scottish player in the two starting line-ups: Jackie McNamara. Maurice Ross came on as a substitute for Rangers. Celtic won 1-0.

But all the familiar faces of yore were here Archie McPherson, Graham Sour-ness, Walter Smith, former England captain Terry Butcher—and a memorable shot from the archives of what it was all about, in the dressing room after a cup win,  selling Ranger’s shirts, belting out in a scrum of other players that old Ranger’s anthem about ‘being up to your knees in Fenian blood, Surrender or you’ll die, For we are the Billy Boys. Hallo. Hallo. We are the Billy Boys’.

Journalists such as Stuart Cosgrove, Kevin McKenna, Graham Speirs and Jim Traynor were onscreen to offer a bit of journalistic colour. Programme makers even gave Alex Salmond a platform to talk about saving his beloved Hibs. Walter Mercer, of course, of Hearts Public Limited Company was intent on buying Hibs Public Limited Company and turning Easter Road into a car park, or better still housing for the rich, who can never have enough houses, never have enough assets. Dundee United planned to do the same to their Dundee rivals and was a coat of paint, or the fingertips of Rab Douglas’s gloves away from success. But these are backstories, because it was Rangers that changed everything. ‘You can’t have ying without yang,’ said Alec Salmond, ‘you can’t have Rangers without Celtic, you can’t have Hearts without Hibs and you can’t have Dundee United without Dundee.’ Yes, you can, as has been shown in recent years.

The irony is that Sebco Rangers are in the same position Celtic were all those years ago. Celtic going for ten league titles in a row. They currently stand at six and with a potential surplus of £80 million to play with in comparison to Ranger’s £15 million. No other team in Scotland stand close to Celtic’s sales potential, there pre-season tour matches bagged them more money than they would get winning the treble in Scotland, but Celtic cannot stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the teams in the English Premier League and struggle to match the spending power of First Division English League teams. Money talks. And those in the Champions League have a plan in place to bar those not in the top four paying countries, not playing countries. Scotland, and it’s Celtic that interest me, doesn’t even merit a footnote as fourth-pot fodder.

Scroll down the big names that have been mentioned. Who’s missing? David Murray. Legend has it that we went to buy Livingstone but got turned down. Those were the days when fitba players were over the hill at thirty and after a testimonial they bought a pub in the city they played fitba in and that was them supposedly set up for life. Think Dixie Deans, who missed a penalty in a European Cup semi-final. Imagine a time when Sir Alex Ferguson was trying to mastermind a win at St Mirren against his closest rivals Clydebank. Then there was Gothenburg and Aberdeen thrashing Real Madrid. And wee Jim MacLean barking like a Scot’s terrier and taking his Dundee United  team to Barcelona and winning in the Nou Camp, and deservedly so, I watched it in a bar in Paisley. Hopefully, I’ll be watching another Scottish team winning in the Nou Camp very soon. But those were the days when someone that had enough cash to buy a house in London could instead wander in and pick up a cheap fitba club like Dundee. David Murray went one better than Dundee, he bought the great Glasgow Rangers. Like Sir Philip Greene with his luxury £100 million yachts and his offshore life, David Murray sold a Glasgow institution for a token payment of a pound. ‘I Play for Money’ does not feature David Murray, but it really, really ,should. He, more than anyone else, epitomise all that is, and was, wrong with Scottish football. That man should be in the dock, never mind on the telly. As, incidentally, to show I’m not biased,  should Sir Philip Greene, but there’s another story, which involves former Rangers Chief Executive Charles Green standing in the dock and waiting to find out if Rangers were legally bound to pay his £500 000 defence costs. I write fiction, but you really couldn’t make it up.

 

Hapoel Beer Sheva 2 Celtic 0 (4-5 on agg): Poor Celtic Bhoys back in Champions League group stage

 

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Hapoel Beer Sheva beat Celtic on the night and caught a dose of the Scottish disease, the Celtic disease, of glorious defeat in victory. This game will be forgotten. The only thing that matters is who goes into the draw for the Champions League. Recently, Celtic have been taking one step forward and two steps back. This was a reminder of the Ronnie Roar night, but our last manager  didn’t think we’d make the group stages, which was fair enough assessment. There was a Ronnie Corbett look about the team, filled with small players that couldn’t fill the shirt, couldn’t pass muster, never mind pass the ball.

Craig Gordon saved a penalty conceded by Janko and caught Janko to concede a cartoon goal. Both players, I suspect, are going to follow Effe to pastures new and for similar reasons. If Craig Gordon plays in the next Champions League qualifier then I’m a black man.

Lustig was unlucky with an early chance, but his time as a centre-half or indeed right back is drawing to a close. Injury prone he hasn’t got the legs to get up and down the park and he can’t defend that well either. Danny McGrain, on the coaching staff, would give him a run for his money.

Toure didn’t do much wrong. Didn’t do much right. Must do better.

Tierney, and it pains me to say it, is no longer new and out of the box and showing signs of wear and tear, his passing and positional play, not great, but still our greatest prospect of being a Celtic great. Usually you can rely on him to be outstanding, last night he was below mediocre.

Bitton, the Israeli, was the only Israeli to play badly. His best moves came with time-wasting at the end.

McGregor was a surprise choice. He’s fallen out of the midfield and out of the team because people forgot he was in the team. Last night was no exception. Had to check for television evidence he was playing.

Brown was back to his old ways. Beaten in the air for the first goal and often in the wrong place at the wrong time. On this evidence he shouldn’t quit Scotland, but quit Celtic  When he was in the right place, he posed as much threat as McGregor.

Forest was back to his old ways too, running backwards with the ball, quicker than he went forward with his turtle neck disappearing further and further into his shirt and getting hooked. With Roberts back fit, it’s ta-ta James.

Sinclair was the only Celtic player that showed any kind of courage on the ball and posed any kind of threat. First pick on the team sheet every week.

Griffiths wasn’t happy at being taken off. That’s not a bad thing. And when he was looking back at who was still on the pitch, you can see his point, but he didn’t get a hit of the ball for the sixty-odd minutes he was on the park.

 

Daniel Murphy (2014) Schooling Scotland: Education, equity and community.

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The kids are back at school. You know what that means, the school run, clogged streets and roads. Banners hung outside school gates warning parents that ‘Parking here is dangerous and selfish’, but some park there anyway, because it doesn’t apply to them, they’ll just be a minute and the people that are dangerous and selfish are the ones without cars, because their poor wee Daren might get wet and catch cold. My response isn’t two fingers in a V-sign, but two legs, try walking.  Daniel Murphy is an optimist. He started teaching in 1974, when we still had the belt to enforce discipline, and teaching was something ‘done to’ you, whether you liked it or not. He was  headteacher in a number of schools and was one of the dreaded school inspectors that searched for continued excellence. He envisages a participatory model, something ‘done with’ pupils, schools being a learning hub, part of the learning community, within walking or cycling distance. The aphorism: It takes all Scotland to raise a child, is a philosophy that is hard to argue with, not that I’d want to.

But unlike Murphy, I’m a pessimist, but I support his belief in continuous evolution: ‘Schools are reservoirs of stability and hope in a changing world’. My starting point was my own prejudices. Murphy makes a distinction between two kind of people and two different career trajectories based not so much on their self-worth, but their parents worth or wealth.  He gives them pseudonyms, but it’s perhaps better to look at Upworthy’s cartoon version of Richard and Paula that perfectly illustrates the direction our school system is taking us ‘on a plate’ : http://www.upworthy.com/a-short-comic-gives-the-simplest-most-perfect-explanation-of-privilege-ive-ever-seen?g=2&c=tpstream

Murphy acknowledges that the education system mirrors society and it’s a rigged system and an unequal adult society. His checklist of doom and gloom could have been written and has been written by ‘Futurologists’ (that’s a made-up word) like me.

  • Overpopulation
  • Resource wars
  • Environmental catastrophe
  • Global warming
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • All powerful globalisation market
  • Less job security
  • Spendthrift baby boomers will demand more care resources

I’d argue and have argued that global warming is a game changer. It’s not hyperbole to suggest the third world war has begun. The richest nations recently failed to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming threshold and with less water and more water in the wrong places and less food there’s going to be tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, on the march. I believe that. And no one can argue that spendthrift baby boomers will demand more care resources. Like global warming, it’s already happening. There are more sixty-five year olds than fifteen-year olds in Britain. If education is for life, less job security doesn’t give you much of a chance. What kind of jobs have we created?

Take my mate Archie. He drives a bin lorry for Edinburgh Council and he’s been there for about four months. He asks for a day off to attend his pals wedding, where he’s the best man. Gives them advance warning, but is told if he takes the day off he’s sacked. Edinburgh Council doesn’t sack him, of course. They pay an agency to sack him. Job flexibility comes at a cost and the worker keeps paying. That’s one of the biggest changes in society since Murphy was teaching in 1974. Privatising and using agencies as a buffer to employ people, indirectly, and take away their rights to have a pension, to be sick and to have a paid holiday. NHS caring is outsourced, as it local authority caring and based on such a model. There’s been a propaganda war and we lost and this is reflected in the schools we have created and the life chances of those that attend them. I’m with the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and  Jimmy Reid on this one.

A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.  It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit.  This is how it starts, and, before you know where you are, you’re a fully paid-up member of the rat pack. The price is too high.  Or as Christ puts it:  ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world suffer the loss of  his soul?’

‘What is Scotland willing to pay?’ asks Daniel Murphy. The answer is whatever it takes for mine and a grudging pittance for thine. I support Murphy’s assertion: ‘Scotland should move towards a system where the accountability of a school is evenly weighted between national and local authority expectations and the views of the parents and pupils.’ Of course, I support it. But I see no evidence that it will happen. Tory rule for the next two parliaments will destroy the NHS and create academies, all for the betterment of poor, poor kids. Aye, belter.

 

 

Peter May (2013) The Chess Man

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Peter May is one of those authors I kept meaning to read. But like everybody else I’ve got a stack of books waiting and no time to read them. I’m glad I found the time to read this. He’s good. He’s very good and the characters he creates swagger out of the page and into your life, so you care about them and what happens to them. The characters that stand out most are the Scottish islands, such as Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra. The islanders on the windswept shores of the Atlantic are a captive breed and people of the land that move with the rhythms of the sea and sky. ‘Fin raised himself up on his elbows and saw that the stone at the entrance had been rolled aside.’ The mirroring of Jesus risen,

The sight that greeted him was almost supernatural. The mountains of south-west Lewis rose up steeple all around, disappearing into an obscurity of low clouds. The valley below seemed wider than it had by the lightning of the night before. The giant shards of rock that littered its floor grew like spectres out of a mist that rolled up from the east, where a not yet visible sun cast an unnaturally red glow. It felt like the dawn of time.

A miracle has occurred and Fin and his companion Whistler are the only two that witness it. A loch overnight has disappeared. Fin is an ex-cop that has moved away and moved back to the islands bringing the baggage of that life with him. Whistler never made that fateful step to the Mainland and the chance of another life, a different life, but Whistler had always been different, thrawn and determined to follow his own path, whatever the cost. The black house and the croft he inherited are his life and a natural genius and affinity with sea and sky. Childhood classmates and linked by kinship to a sunken ship and lives lost yards from the shore after the Great War they are more than friends and less than brothers.

The essence of drama is conflict and May cleaves the easy renewal of their childhood camaraderie and past by making Fin an employee of an incomer Jamie, who owns the land and the people of the land and threatens to legally take away Whistler’s home because the latter refuses to bend his knee and pay feu duties and follows the natural god-given law and  takes one for the pot from Loch Suaineabhal. Big Kenny, who works for Jamie, has already take Whistler’s wife and child. The loss of the loch may have been a natural phenomenon called bog bursting, but the presence of a plane in what was once deep water, with a body inside, of Roddy’s body inside, another childhood friend that was part of a group that created a haunting Island sound (think Clannad) and achieved international success moves all the pieces and plot points on the board to new and potentially check mate positions.  And there is no way of getting out without loss of life or loss of wife and child.

And if Island life doesn’t sound complicated enough throw in the femme fatale that everyone one in the band loved and lost. Finn the narrator tell us:  ‘Mairead Morrison, who played the fiddle and sang. She had he voice of an angle, a body that would arouse any teenage boy’s passion, and a smile that would break your heart…I fell in love with her the first moment I saw her.’

As did Whistler and Kenny and Roddy and, well, you get the drift. Mairead Morrison is Beyoncé and Madonna combined with ‘startling Celtic blue eyes’. The band meet and greet each other at the Nicholson Institute in Stornoway. The backstory of how they left the Islands and achieved success and how a crashed plane with a body inside it came to be in the loch is what drives the plot forward. There’s a subplot involving another, former, member of the group, the Reverend Donald Murray who is being tried by a quorum of The Free Church of Scotland on the charge of breaking the commandments and killing someone is self-defence. ‘Thou shalt not kill’ trumping the latter, was being debated. But this narrative threat seems to have come from the backstory of another of May’s novels that someone better read than me may be more familiar with. The people of the Islands know their own and May paints word pictures and plots points more skilfully than a chess-grand master that you’ve got to just say, like Whistler he has a God-given talent and serves the land and worship of the word well.

Shirzad Chamine (2012) Positive Intelligence. Why only 20% of Teams and Individual Achieve Their True Identity.

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It would be unfair to suggest I read Positive Intelligence with an open mind, or even read it, rather I flipped through it. I did read today’s report in The Observer by Harriet Sherwood, the headline of which is Top cleric says C of E reforms risk making it a ‘suburban sect’.  How does that apply to Shirzad Chamine’s New York Time’s bestseller?  Well, I’d argue that Positive Intelligence (PQ) which measure the percentage of your mind that is sabotaging you as opposed to  helping you is pseudoscience or just plain bullshit. ‘The great news is you can improve your PQ.’ You can minimise the Judge that rules your life and increase your Sagacity and empathise more. Win-Win. In other words, do unto other what you would do to yourself.

I’ll quote Sherwood here on the Church of England’s plans, but they could apply equally to PQ:

There seems to be no sagacity, serious science or spiritual substance to the curatives being offered.

Make no mistake Positive Intelligence tells you, like the Church of England or indeed Alcoholic Anonymous’ Big Book, how to turn your life around. Read, for example, the account of ‘Peter an entrepreneur’. He had wanted to make $10 million before his retirement. He was offered $125 million for his company, but turned it down because his college buddy had been offered $330 million. Late Peter became bankrupt. Peter is an asshole is the lesson I learned. I’m not great at empathising with people like him, but that is being judgemental. You need to ask yourself why you are being judgemental. Ask your Sagacity.

My Sagacity says fuck off.

Chamine points out in his research that ‘on average, able-bodied adults who become quadriplegic through an accident return to their baseline happiness’.

I thought I was poor and unhappy because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet. Read that sentence again. Happiness has a baseline. Unhappiness too must have a baseline. I’m going to send away for one of those things you blow into when the cops arrest you and they say ‘sorry, pal, you’ve driving a car and you’re three times over the unhappiness limit’. You’re looking at a two year ban, put in the cells and beat up.’ Blow into the bag again. ‘look pal, you’re ten time over the limit, we need to cut your feet off and you’ve done this before so we’re cutting your fingers off. Are you happy now? See what you’ve made us do?’

If you look through Positive Intelligence peppered with stories that could have come straight from AA’s Big Book so you don’t need to read the PI book. ‘The Vicious Cycle’; ‘Women Suffer Too’; ‘Jim’s Story’; ‘The Man Who Mastered Fear’; ‘He Sold Himself Short’; ‘The Missing Link’; ‘My Chance to Live’; ‘Acceptance Was the Answer’; ‘Winner Takes All’.

I’m not asking you to read the Big Book or take the PI test, or read the New York Times bestseller. I’d just ask the kind of people that read books where they can slap themselves on the back and thing how they’ve created such a fine test and algorithm for measuring happiness to blow in that bag, pal and take a long hard look at themselves. Books are the answer because they can help us empathise with the other, the worker, the underlining, the refugee.

Anthony Trollope’s character had something to say in the nineteenth century in The Way We Live Now that has added bite in the twenty-first century. ‘People said of him that he had framed and carried out long and premeditated and deeply laid schemes for the ruins of those who had trusted him, that he had swallowed up the property of all who had come in contact with him, that he was fed with the blood of widows and children’.

Positive Intelligence is an argument for the placebo effect and for backslapping for those that own the top 100 US companies Chamine is writing and works for. These are not my people. This is not my book. Read. Read. Read widely and wisely. Then you’ll understand.