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Total ban of “single-use” bags? Don’t overdo it!

We (hopefully) all know about the environmental problems plastic causes. We see regularly pictures and read reports about animals that were interfered with by getting caught in or swallowing items made of plastic. The plan is to forbid forks and knives, straws and plates and cups made of plastic and while there is a lot of sense in some of this, there is the possibility to go overboard a bit in an over-exaggerated “we have to do something” drive.

Ireland was one of the earlier countries to charge for the use of plastic bags and in the meantime MANY countries caught up or even did better by forbidding certain type of plastic bags. But at a visit in Germany a few months ago, I came across a situation that showed me that we really can overdo it!

I was in a middle sized town and had a look at some shops without any clear intent to buy something. C&A, a big clothes shop, was also there and I went inside to have a look. They are known for good quality for low prices. Not as low as Penney’s, but still very competitive. And while having a look around, I found a T-Shirt that I really liked and one or two other items that looked great and were at the right price.

So I went to the till and pushed the clothes across the counter to pay. The employee behind the counter scanned the labels of the three items and pushed them back to me. :-O I looked at her in a quizzical way and she said “Oh, do you need a bag?” I said “Do you have a paper bag?” Her reply: “No, we don’t do paper bags, but you can buy a plastic bag.” :-O :-O

I had no interest in using a plastic bag, but I also didn’t want to walk out of the shop with three pieces of clothing clenched under my arm just because I hadn’t pre-planned the purchase and therefore didn’t bring my own bag!!

Is it too much to ask to get at least the flimsiest of paper bags to put your purchases in if you go clothes shopping? C&A also sells suits and evening dresses. Would you not think that it is in the interest of the shop to provide customers with basic means to bring their garments home unblemished?

I am all in favour of protecting the environment, but that experience did annoy me quite a bit. I could have bought a plastic bag, but I decided not to (for environmental reasons), so I DID walk out of the shop with three items of clothing clenched under my arm. :-O

Do we live behind the moon? We want Electric Scooters!

I mentioned last week that I was in San Diego recently and I totally appreciated the easy availability of the Uber service, something we are sorely missing in Ireland, just because the National Transport Authority is protecting the Taxi Cartel here for no good reason.

And there is another great thing that San Diego (and many other cities on the USA) offer that falls under the headline of “transport” and that we are still missing in Ireland. San Diego has electric scooters everywhere that can be rented for short trips by anyone via a simple app. There are thousands of scooters everywhere and all you need is register with the service provider (Lime or Bird), download an app and then pay a $1 release charge per trip and 15 cent per minute of a rental charge.

If you use the scooter for a long time, it can get expensive: A 1 hour usage will cost a total of $10. But at 15 miles per hour and with a reach of about 30 miles, you can could certainly cover quite a distance in that hour. In addition, the main target seems to be relatively short trips of closer to 10 minutes than an hour. And for that, using a scooter is a fun way to get from A to B. All this is hugely helped by the fact that you can park the scooter at any street corner (as long as it doesn’t obstruct), so it doesn’t have to be brought to a specific base (unlike the Dublin Bikes, for example).

I zipped around a little and it was a lot of fun!

In Dublin we lately see more and more people commuting on Electric Scooters (which they own), but unfortunately using a scooter in Ireland is still illegal and there are currently NO plans in the in the Department of Transport to look into “Personal Electric Mobility Vehicles” (PMV or PEM). We really do seem to live behind the moon!

Electric mobility is looking like the BIG change to our transport system in the future and I mentioned recently that by 2020, the Irish Government would like to have 20,000 electric cars on Irish streets (but will probably fall way short of that). If electric vehicles is the future, then it is high time to start looking at other electric vehicles as well.

We want Uber!!

Last week I was in San Diego for 10 days for a training course (and a couple of days holidays added to the end). I had originally planned to use day passes on public transport to get around, but it turned out that the websites painted a nicer picture of the public transport system than it was in reality and it started at the airport when the “promised” facility to buy their equivalent of a LEAP card could just not be found.

So right after arrival we had to change our plans and the options were either Taxi or Uber. The distance from the airport was about 8 miles. With a taxi that would be $24, with Uber it was $16. Not a bad start! And it just continued like that! We did about 10 Uber Trips altogether and had not a single bad experience. All drivers were extremely friendly, some were chatty, some not. All drove well and responsible and all had other jobs and only did a few hours of Uber driving per day or per week. Not once did we have to wait longer than 4 minutes until we were picked up and not once did a driver take “the scenic route” or tried to use any other trick to increase the fare (because they can’t!!).

If you don’t know how Uber operates let me explain it briefly: Uber drivers are private car owners who only need their mobile phone to become an Uber driver. When you book an Uber trip, the customer specifies the start and end point on an app and is told the full price in advance (the driver can’t change it and there are NO surcharges). The app for the driver is a SatNav system and tells the driver exactly how to get to the destination, so the driver just needs to follow the instructions. At the end of the trip you don’t pay by cash or card, instead the app sorts out all payments from your credit card to the driver. So you thank the driver and leave the car. A completely cashless system.

It is just brilliant! BUT we don’t have it and if the National Transport Authority (NTA) is not reigned in soon, they will not allow us to have Uber. Why? Because they are protecting the overpriced and regulated Taxi business. Taxis are outdated and Taxi regulation is harming, not helping customers.

You might say/think that we have Uber in Ireland, but it is a bastardised version of the proper Uber. In Ireland only licensed Taxi drivers are allowed to transport passengers for money, so Uber is just the middle man that connects you with a taxi driver via the app. It has some features of the proper Uber system because you make the contact by app, but the app doesn’t tell you what the price will be and the price is NO different than the normal taxi price. So, Uber in Ireland is not Uber and that is all thanks to the National Transport Authority (NTA).

I think the idea of Uber is brilliant and – without a doubt – it will be the private transport model that will outlive the regulated taxi industry. And in a few years we will look back and wonder “Why, oh Why did we stick to this completely outdated taxi model for such a long time when we easily could have moved to a more modern model?” Yep, I Know, it sometimes feels like living behind the moon! :-O

The Belfast Trial and the Consequences

This post was first published in the “This is Odd!” section of the DublinEventGuide.com on 31 March 2018, hence some references to that and also the spam filter circumvention as described below.

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First of all, please note that I can’t risk using the word ra pe in its proper spelling, because otherwise spam filters will not let this mail through, so instead I will use “Rp” wherever that word should appear. I am sure you will be able to work with that.

I have to admit that writing about the Rp Trial in Belfast is not a cheery subject in the slightest and you could say that it has nothing to do with events or with Dublin, but first of all the “This is Odd!” section in the Dublin Event Guide is an opinion section where I don’t just stick to Dublin or event themes and secondly, I think what happened and the emotional response to it is just to huge to ignore it.

BUT, I don’t intend to discuss the trial and its outcomes. Instead there is something much more important and that is what will we take from it and how will we change our attitudes going forward.

A quick reprise: Two years ago at a sort of party, a then 19 year old women experienced something that she called Rp (see first paragraph to understand what “Rp” means). The four men that were involved – and yes there was more than one – claimed all was consensual. The trial was done in front of a jury and after 8 days that jury decided that the men were not guilty and at the same time they implied with that that the women was telling lies.

The result is that the men walk free, the women involved not get any form of emotional “compensation” for having to go through the trial and the majority of women observing feel (rightly) that not much is done to protect or support them if they every had to experience Rp and therefore many women would probably never report it. A really bad outcome.

I didn’t follow the trial in detail and therefore don’t know all that was said by all sides, but I did read the What’s App and text message exchange between the four men and just based on that, I judge them as chauvinistic low lifes who definitely are capable of what they were accused of. There should be consequences for them, but unfortunately I can also see why the trial did result in an acquittal.

We have heaps of examples where very clear trials came to very unexpected results. OJ Simpson’s murder trial in 1994 is a perfect example. Everyone expected that he would be found to be the murder of his wife, but he was acquitted by a jury. Another example is the trial against Oscar Pistorius in South Africa. He shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2014 and claimed that he thought she was an intruder. Nearly everyone was convinced that he is guilty of murder, but a judge sentenced him to just 5 years in prison. And there are lots more cases as shocking and surprising as these. A lawyer friend of mine always said that “in court and at sea you are in god’s hand”. I would say “in court and at sea everything and anything can happen” and very very often it is not justice that is the result of a trial.

Many think that a trial in front of a jury is fairer, I totally disagree! I would rather have some professionals to decide my fate if I am innocent, but if I am guilty I would love to have a jury. Jury’s are randomly selected, but heavily influenced and influencable individuals with no expertise in assessing evidence and judging a difficult scenario. And if they have the SLIGHTEST doubt they will judge against the accusation. This is what happened here, in my opinion.

The outcome might have acquitted the men, but there is a HUGE difference between “not guilty” and “innocent”. The jury might have decided that they are not guilty of Rp, but that doesn’t mean AT ALL that they are innocent. Their Social Media/mobile phone exchanges shows that they are despicable chauvinistic low lifes and unfortunately the acquittal will turn them worse. I read that they now will sue people of libel (damaging their reputation).

The trial outcome is what it is, but what should we do now? How should we react to it?

In my opinion, the four men should be kicked out of the Irish and Ulster Rugby team with immediate effect just based on the Social Media/mobile phone exchange alone. This is not the way men should be allowed to talk about women and the sports teams have a responsibility to make that VERY VERY clear. We can’t have young people looking up to scum like that.

Secondly, we have to make clear that this one case does not mean that all other cases will be decided in the same way. Rosa Parks who – as a black woman – refused to give up her seating in the white section of a bus was the trigger for a societal change. Maybe or hopefully the victim from the Belfast Rp Trial will influence today’s society’s attitude to chauvinists and male low lifes as well!

And thirdly, I think we have to make a significant change in the current education of society. In the context with the #MeToo campaign and for education going forward, the “No means No” principle emerged and is quoted in many places also in connection with this trial. I feel this is a totally inappropriate principle. Sure it is better than what many women have experienced until now, but the only principle we should base our education (for all ages!) on is “Only YES gives you the right”.

It’s like this: It is not just a RED light that tells you to stop at a traffic light. A yellow light also doesn’t give you the automatic right to race ahead. ONLY the green light allows you to proceed. Our focus has to be on making clear that only a clear YES will give the right to proceed. And if it is not a CLEAR “Yes”, for example because alcohol is involved, then there can’t be a “I assumed it was ok to go ahead”.

Oh and two other things: I know one man, a Rugby fan, who celebrated the acquittal of the four and who wrote on Facebook that he knew they were innocent and he can’t wait until they are “in the green jersey again”. Sorry, Sir, you have NO clue how people that you don’t know personally behave behind closed doors and your ignorance and arrogance is disgusting.
And lastly: There are good guys out there who would NEVER talk like that about women and who would never treat them in a disrespectful way. I know PLENTY of them! Ladies, please don’t assume that we all are scum! But also, guys, if you hear other guys talk about women like the four from Belfast OR if you come across any disrespectful behaviour towards women or anybody else, please be a man and stand up for the badly treated person!

LGBT groups at New York Parade? – No, Leo Varadkar, you got that wrong!

Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was in the USA for the Taoiseach’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day visit and he was invited to take part in the St, Patrick’s Day Parade with his partner. Since a few years ago Varadkar had declared that he is gay (it seems that his partner lives in the USA), it was not surprising that he mentioned in an interview the fact that he was marching in the New York St. Patrick’s Day parade with his partner was a sign of change and great diversity.

RTE News wrote about it here.

But he got that completely wrong! The parade organisers banned LGBT groups in the past, but since Varadkar was not walking in the parade as a representative of any LGBT group or under an LGBT banner, his walking in the parade can NOT be interpreted as a “sign of change” at all.

We can clearly see in this picture from the above RTE News article, that he was not part of ANY LGBT group in the parade:

Without a doubt he is not the first gay person who is walking in the parade! And his private preferences were not the reason for his presence in the parade. Consequently, however, his admission to the parade also doesn’t indicate that the organisers have changed their opinion about LGBT groups.

Odd how in his opinion 2 plus 2 results in 6.

 

 
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