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Friday, October 24, 2008

Poison Pens 4: Propping up the Property Ladder

The pips are now officially squeaking.

As the Department of Finance sends auditors into the banks to view their loan books, the developers are beginning to panic properly now.

Previously, they'd been merely concerned. No one was buying their boxy apartments in the burbs for the inflated prices they'd listed them at. They'd tried every stunt in the book, from offering interest-free loans, to throwing in boats or Bulgarian apartments to seal the deal.

But the public weren't interested in buying in a plummeting market, and those few mad enough to consider it can't get a mortgage from the banks.

There seemed to be some light at the end of the tunnel for the developer classes when the budget was presented last week. The state was now going to offer its own sub-prime mortgages which would only apply to the surfeit of new build homes still on the builders' books.

Talk about a bail-out of builders masquerading as helping the homeless!

But now that people are actually being repossessed, there is little tolerance for Government stunts aimed at propping up the property market.

In recent times, the banks have been keeping the whole routine going, rolling over the interest on massive (by which I mean from the tens of millions upwards) loans to developers.

But that is likely to come crashing to a halt once the Government auditors oversee the banks' books. After all, why should the rest of us pay our mortgage under threat of repossession when builders who owe stratospheric amounts of money are being facilitated?

The builders know that many of them are likely to go bust if they are made pay the interest on their loans and the Government bail-out doesn't work.

Which is why we're seeing this week their mouthpieces in the media spinning like mad on their behalfs.

From Independent Newspapers come two classics of the genre: the first for grown-ups by someone who ought to know better (and perhaps does), the second a piece of cartoon analysis by an Evening Herald useful idiot.

In his piece, McWilliams paints his usual colourful pen portrait of his creation Breakfast Roll Man, who starred in his epoch-defining book 'The Pope's Children'.

But now Breakfast Roll Man is on his uppers - the developments won't sell, he can't afford the bank loan, pressure mounting on all sides. It's not an entirely sympathetic picture, but McWilliams ensures to inject some pathos into it.

Where McWilliams lets himself down is when he concludes that Breakfast Roll Man was duped by Bertie, and deserves a dig out of his own. This duplicitous piece of writing runs contrary to all common sense.

But since McWilliams was involved in advising the Government on the bank guarantee, we should take this latest message from him seriously. This is what he is advocating, and he currently has the ear of those in power.

The Evening Herald article is way more transparent. It's an outrageous puff piece in favour of granting Sean Dunne planning for his white elephant Ballsbridge tower before he is declared bankrupt.

Sadly, it's not available online. Let me judiciously present a few representative gobbets for you to choke on:

"Were the city planners pleased? Oh no. The well-heeled resident Leafies of lush Ballsbridge got on their mobiles to the Irish Times and muttered darkly about the destruction of Ballsbridge - meaning their snooty little enclave would no longer be as exclusive nor their houses as expensive."

It's priceless, isn't it? The coinage of the term 'Leafies', for example, as if leaves were exclusive to Dublin Four. What was wrong with the established pejorative term of 'Deefer', I wonder?
Then the snide reference to the Irish Times, the depiction of Ballsbridge as an 'enclave' - gated it is not - all add up to paint a desperate picture of little Dunne versus Big Bastard D4 snobs.

But wait, there's more. So much more.

"After all, Dunne deserves our support and indeed admiration. He's a swaggering, carefree buccaneer, who lives life to the full, takes terrible risks and spends his money rather than squirrelling it under the mattress. In short, like his tower, he's a diamond in the rough."

Let's parse that a little. A buccaneer is a pirate. It's probably the most honest word used by the author, the aforementioned useful idiot, Gwen Halley. Mind you, she likely wouldn't have used it if she knew its meaning.

But a pirate is indeed what Dunne is. And yes, he did indeed take terrible risks. Unfortunately, they didn't work out. He gambled and lost. But Gwen thinks the planning system should see 'the bigger picture' by throwing him the lifeline of planning permission.

Perhaps if Dunne had squirrelled his money away, perhaps if the nation and the Government had all done so, instead of squandering our new-found wealth (Dunne on leveraging property deals, the Government on pork barrel infrastructure and propping up their funders in construction, the nation on easy credit and inflated mortgages) we'd all be better placed to face this recession.

McWilliams and Halley are spinning on behalf of the developers, and Independent Newspapers is facilitating their doing so.

But nothing will save the developer class now. Sean Dunne will go bust, and so will Breakfast Roll Man.

The only remaining issue is how much money will the State (via this preposterous sub-prime lending scheme) and the rest of us (via buying those boxy apartments in the burbs in a falling market) waste in propping up the property ladder until its fall can no longer be postponed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Catch the pigeon!

It appears that the phoney war between Iran and the USA/UK has reached the levels of cartoon comedy already.

According to reports, the ayatollahs arrested two 'spy pigeons' who were flying suspiciously near their controversial uranium enrichment facility, which the Western powers allege is being used to develop nuclear bomb capacity.

The ever sober and responsible online editors at Sky News' website have produced this mock-up below of the errant birds:

However, I'm more inclined to envisage the event something along the lines of this:

Only, Dick Dastardly would be wearing a big, bushy Mullah beard, Muttley would be in a burqa and the pigeon would be sporting a Star of David, of course.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ireland's elderly respond to Medical Card withdrawal

Ireland's Over-70s are responding the the FF-PD-Hobbit coalition's decision to take away their medical cards in this week's budget:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Budget carnage

Did you enjoy your decade of gombeen government?

I hope you did, because the bill just arrived:

1% 'levy' on all earnings.
2% over 100K.
HSE middle management axed; review of public service to find more job cuts.
Decentralisation paused till 2011.
8c a litre on petrol, 50c on pack of fags, 50c on bottle of wine.
'Review' of pension reserve fund (he's going to raid it later.)
Dublin Metro on pause.
Over 70s med card axed for those who don't qualify - but they'll get a 400 euro donation towards med costs in its place.
Capital gains tax up.
10 euro tax on airport departures, 2 euro for 'shorter' journeys.
Tax on second homes and let homes, but not on homes for sale but not sold (got to look after those poor builders).
Child benefit halved for 18 year olds, and to be scrapped in a couple of years.

When your next pay cheque arrives, notably lighter than before, remember who to blame. You'll get a chance to have your say next year, when the local government elections come around.

(Pic shamelessly nicked from the geniuses at The Irish Sentinel)

Monday, October 13, 2008

So who goes to jail?

Now that economic armageddon has been averted/postponed/cancelled (delete as your confidence in the future dictates), who's going to carry the can?

Taxpayers, of course, will be paying in real terms for the banking and trading sectors' mistakes.

But will any of the criminals who brought us to this point be held accountable?

In Britain, it seems that despite nationalisation of four banks the only penalty for the bankers will be the removal of their bonuses this year. Big swinging mickey. How about removing their pay packets too, then removing their freedom?

In America, the bankers will be inflicted with 'oversight'. Apart from the fact that oversight should have been going on from day one, this seems to indemnify those responsible for this mess from any responsibility.

So we remain in the asymmetrical risk situation, whereby bankers make tons of money when their irresponsible bets come off, but lose little or nothing when they don't.

And in Ireland? No penalties for the bankers thus far, despite the state underwriting all their mess. And I predict that tomorrow's emergency budget will hammer the taxpayer while continuing to reward the big losers who caused this mess - the bankers and the builders.

Nick Leeson, now a successful employee of Galway United FC, went to jail for this sort of irresponsible investing. I'd love to see the many others who emulated his model of speculation receive a similar penalty.

But they won't, you can be sure of that.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A little bell will ring

In a few hours, in New York, a little bell will ring.

And then all your hard work, a lifetime's effort of diligence and sacrifice, will begin to vanish. All that you saved, all that you invested, all that you salted away in pensions for when you're old which is sooner than you'd like it to be, will start to erode, like salt in a rainstorm.

You think it's been bad already, with indices like the Dow and Nikkei falling 7-10% a day, and the Iseq a mere fraction of what it was only a year ago.

But once that little bell rings, complex mathematics overseen by overpaid shouting white men will take over, and all the many hours of your effort, all the careful scrimping and saving, the self-denial, the sacrifices you made, they'll all begin to fall in value.

Not in real value. You put those hours in, you did the work, you strove to ensure the future for you and your family. That value remains in your character and the admiration of those who love you and witnessed how hard you slogged.

But in monetary value, a large proportion of your efforts is about to vanish for no good reason other than the greed of bankers and traders and their deliberately opaque and complex system of self-reward.

The solution is NOT to do what is currently being done. The solution is to do the exact opposite. Rather than ensuring their losses, it is time to hold them culpable for them.

It's a solution I'm prepared to bet no government in the world will implement, not even Iceland which officially went broke as an entire nation yesterday. But it's the right solution.

It may provide you with a little comfort today, after the little bell rings and your savings, investments, pensions and stocks start to diminish before your very eyes, to know what the answer is to this economic meltdown.

That's why I offer it to you. Remember who's responsible for this mess and hold them to account. They just stole years of your working life and pissed it up the wall.

Otherwise, when that little bell rings, take cover. A global depression is coming out swinging.

Update: It's bad alright.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The reality of deadbeat dads

Last week, Minister for (in)Justice Dermot Ahern answered a parliamentary question in the Oireachtas about the inequality suffered by Irish fathers.

His answer was that existing legislation was perfectly acceptable in ensuring the relationship of children with their fathers following parental separation and divorce.

This is utter bollocks as everyone in the country knows. Unmarried fathers have to actually apply to be considered parents of their own children.

Fathers who separate from their children's mothers, no matter what the reason (short of maternal drug abuse or imprisonment) can expect to lose their homes and children in the family law courts.

All this inequality is based on two pillars of untruth - the outmoded prejudice that Mommy knows best, and the myth of the deadbeat dad.

That's why I must pay tribute to today's Daily Mail, whose reactionary politics would normally preclude it from depicting campaigning fathers as anything other than Spidey-suit clad loons.

Their article by writer William Leith is a superlative testimony to the reality of separated fathers' lives.

It should be obligatory reading for the single-mom agitators, who would rather see taxes spent on third party childminding rather than see legislation implemented to ensure children receive proper upbringing by both their parents equitably.

It should also be read by ignorant, complacent men in power like Dermot Ahern, who is only a marital separation away from doing the McDonalds weekend parenting shift himself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Poison Pens 3: Speaking with forked tongues

So, you're an Irish tabloid editor and Grainne Seoige has finally managed to have that fella removed from her nice RTE couch and replaced with her own sister.

You run the only evening national paper in the country, so you're guaranteed to have the first review of their new show.

But if it's bad, and you slam it, you'll never get access to either of the photogenic, units-selling sisters again. And if it's bad and you don't slam it, then the readers will see through your vapid puffing of poo.

So, like the RTE producers who gambled on the sister act, you hope and pray it works.

Then it doesn't. It's a car crash, unwatchably bad. How do you review it?

Well, if you're the Evening Herald, you pan it and puff it all at the same time! Genius!

Front page today bills their TV critic Pat Stacey's review inside on page three. And Pat pulls no punches - "one great, big, private joke", "the Seoige sisters absolutely drip with smugness", "like being smothered with a pink blanket at a pyjama party", "a ramshackle mess", "catastrophically bad."

Well, that's the end of the Evening Herald running any 'exclusives' about the Seoige sisters for the next century or so, right?

Wrong. Because thirty pages in is where the Evening Herald destroys its own (admittedly greatly diminished) integrity by hedging the bet.

Their 'columnist' Sinead Ryan is one you can always rely on for vapid girly frothiness. There's not a subject on Earth she can't trivialise with her shallow insights.

And of course, she's got an opinion on the Seoiges that she just has to share with us - "super, sassy and sexy", "a winner", "fab combination", deserving of a "prime time Friday or Saturday night slot."

So, what is the casual reader, who missed the Seoige show, to make of the Evening Herald's reviews?

Is the show catastrophically bad or a fab combination? Is it like being smothered with a pink blanket or deserving a prime time slot? Is it somehow both, in the self-contradictory world of the Evening Herald?

And is the Evening Herald a newspaper with opinions and reviews that can be trusted, or is it a self-contradictory bag of shite?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What sort of cold-hearted cunt is Barack Obama?

George Hussein Obama, centre, in Huruma shanty town, Nairobi, Kenya, where he lives unaided by his somewhat wealthier brother Barack.

There are serious questions about Barack Obama that aren't being answered.

Questions like: was he actually born in Hawaii or was he born in Kenya, which would invalidate him from even running?

Questions like: what did he actually do during his years as a community activist and why have his employment records suddenly been made classified the minute journalists started asking to look at them?

But the most serious question about Barack Obama is the one about his character.

What sort of a man can run for high office, the highest on Earth, promising his vision of care for all, expressing his concern that no one be left behind and that the weakest be protected, while all the time he has abandoned his own brother to a diseased shanty town and Third World squalor?

Barack Hussein Obama is that man.

And George Hussein Obama is his brother, seen above being propped up by a journalist and friend due to either illness or drug use.

He lives in Huruma shanty town in Nairobi, next door to a low-rent brothel in an area where AIDS is endemic. He doesn't work, smokes dope all day, and lives with his aunt on a pittance he raises by begging. He also appears to be in poor health.

Barack has never given George any help. He's never even given George a penny to help himself. But he's written multi-million selling books boasting about his pride in family, in his heritage. Somehow, he's never seen fit to share the tiniest bit of that wealth with his own brother, who is forced to beg for a living in a Third World slum instead.

Despite that, poor George still supports Barack and has the whole neighbourhood backing him in the forthcoming presidential race.

I'm not American and I don't have a vote. Even if I did, I'd be a natural Democrat in US terms. But I cannot endorse such a man as Barack Obama.

I'm getting saddened at how so many otherwise intelligent people have fallen for the rhetoric here. Everyone seems to be sleepwalking into believing they've found the black JFK rather than actually questioning the candidate, and properly examining who they're seeking to elect.

John McCain has a thousand pages of medical records, was tortured in Nam and is running for this post four or eight years too late. John McCain, if elected, might die in office and leave Sarah Palin in charge, which is scary for many people.

John McCain has a lot of money, cars and houses. People pick on him for that. But Obama has a lot of wealth too. The difference, for me, is that John McCain hasn't left anyone in his family behind in a squalid gutter.

That's probably because John McCain was the person left behind in the squalor for years when he was a POW in Asia.

John McCain is demonstrably a man of integrity. A man who can't remember how many homes he has, perhaps. Let's say he's an old, occasionally forgetful man of integrity.

But any multi-millionaire man of power and influence who would leave his brother to fester in such a hellhole without even offering to help is no man of integrity.

And when that man then starts spouting about how he wants to care for everyone in his nation, I start thinking about his abandoned brother and wonder whether what I'm hearing is hypocrisy, psychosis or simply cynical lying to get elected at all costs.

Barack Obama is a man without character who left his poor brother to rot in a festering, Aids-ridden, malarial Third World shanty town, despite being himself a millionaire who boasts of his desire to help everyone he can.

Bear that in mind. Don't say I didn't warn you when he turns out not to be the black JFK after all.

P.S. Some Americans wish to help poor George even if his big brother the millionaire senator does not. Here's the link for Help George Obama, if you're interested in being a better human being than Barack Obama.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The world according to one-eyed men

Those jolly japesters in Republican Sinn Fein (the ones who split in 1986 when Gerry and the boys in the Provos went soft by deciding to run in Brit elections) aren't happy at all.

Apparently the PSNI (or 'British Colonial Police' as they are known within RSF circles) have had the audacity to drive around in the North, talking to the locals!

According to a press release from the three men and a dog in RSF, this "use of vans" is "putting lives at risk" because they are "being used in a sinister attempt to build relations with local people."

Why is such relationship-building so sinister, pray tell? Because it "thereby increases British intelligence capacity and capabilities in Ireland," of course.

They're beyond satire. They really are.