Tag Archives: bad government

The Charge Of The Tight Brigade

Irish State Broadcaster RTÉ is apparently losing TV Licence revenue because some people have no actual TV, and the Government believe that they are watching programmes though their computers instead. Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte is therefore introducing the Public Service Broadcasting Charge, payable by all households, saying “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country. I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television and don’t access content on their iPad or iPhone.”…..


There was a knock at the front of the cave, followed by the strangled curse of someone who has just unthinkingly rapped on a stone wall with their bare hand. Ugg went to the entrance and was surprised to see Patrabid, one of the Village Elders, standing there sucking his knuckles.

“I’m here about your television,” said Patrabid, eventually.

“What’s that?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid indicated a large box on the cart behind him. “It’s a device that provides entertainment, information and opinion,” he said.

“Don’t need one so,” said Ugg. “I’ve got a wife for all that.”

As if on cue, and not at all because she’d been eavesdropping, Ogga came to the front of the cave to join them. “Are you trying to sell us one?” she said.

“Of course not,” said Patrabid, “because you already have one.”

“No, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“Of course you do,” said Patrabid. “I don’t believe that we have cave men in the country-” here he stopped and looked at the cave in which Ugg and Ogga so obviously lived, “-well ok, we do,” he admitted, “but I don’t believe that there are people who don’t watch television.”

“Well, we don’t,” said Ugg.

“But you should,” said Patrabid. “It’s great, look, I’ll show you.” He lifted the box off the cart and carried it into the cave. The three of them watched it for a while.

“It’s not doing anything,” said Ogga eventually.

“Well, no, it doesn’t yet,” admitted Patrabid. “Yeddi’s son in the village is working on something he calls electricity that he says will power it, but until he gets it right the box does nothing. When it does, though, it’ll be great – weather forecasting -”

“Snow tomorrow, snow the next day, bright spells with snow spreading from the west later the day after would be my guess,” said Ogga. “This isn’t called the Ice Age for nothing.”

“There’ll be nature programmes, like ‘When Mammoths Attack’ -”

“I already know when they attack,” said Ugg. “Every bloody time they see a human, that’s when. I’m a hunter, trust me on this.”

“Well,” said Patrabid desperately, “there’ll be fascinating little programmes about fur-skin making, or arrow-head crafting, or why the square wheel industry is dying out.”

“But we know why,” said Ugg. “It’s because the round wheel is all the rage now. Dunno why, at least you never had to chase a runaway square wheel down a steep hill.”

“Listen” said Ogga, “come back when it works, and we might buy one.”

“I told you, I not here to sell you one,” said Patrabid. “I’m here to collect the charge for you having one.”

“But we don’t have one,” said Ugg.

“Not my problem,” said Patrabid. “You have to pay for having one anyway.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” said Ogga. “It’d be like having to pay off bank losses that you weren‘t responsible for.” The other two stared at her. “Don’t ask me what that means,” she said. “The phrase just popped into my head.”

“Why does anyone have to pay anyway?” asked Ugg. “Why not make it pay for itself by charging for advertising?”

“Advertising?” said Ogga.

“Yes,” said Ugg. “A man could appear and tell you to keep your skin soft by washing more than once a month. He could say it’s because you’re worth it.”

“Excellent idea,” said Patrabid. “We’ll do that too.”

“Then why would we still have to pay the charge?” asked Ugg.

“It’s to fund Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“What’s that?” asked Ogga.

Just then a loud shouting started up outside. “Here is the news,” yelled a voice. “Mammoths attacked some hunters. Snow is forecast for later -”

That’s Public Service Broadcasting,” said Patrabid.

“That’s just The Old Yeller,” said Ogga.

“He’s providing a public service,” said Patrabid, “and we have to massively overpay him in case he decides to leave and join another network.”

“Is that something to do with spiders?” asked Ugg.

Patrabid was about to witheringly reply when Ogga said “we don’t listen to him.”

“You can’t  possibly not,” said Patrabid. “You can hear him from half a mile away.”

Ogga picked up a bucket of slops, walked to the front of the cave and hurled it out. The shouting abruptly stopped, there was a brief shocked silence, a lot of hawking and coughing and then something that sounded very like a man blocking one nostril and blowing hard, in an attempt to clear the other one of poo.

“As I was saying,” said Ogga calmly, “we don’t listen to him.”

“Well, you’ll still owe -”

Ogga looked into her bucket. “There are still some slops left in this,” she said matter-of-factly.

Patrabid decided to chicken out, or at least to whatever-the-prehistoric-equivalent-of-a-chicken-was out. “Er, there are of course certain caveholds that will be exempt,” he said.

“I thought there might,” said Ogga, swinging her bucket gently.

Patrabid left. Ogga was about to go back to the kitchen area when she noticed that Ugg was looking at a small flat slab of stone. There was writing on it which said “Village Elder For Communications And Snide Remarks Patrabid has today introduced a charge which you will have to pay even if you aren’t using the service that you’re being charged for.”

“What’s that?” said Ogga.

“It’s the news,” said Ugg. “Soothsaya in the village will chip it out for you each evening for two flints.”

“But what are you reading it on?” asked Ogga.

Ugg held up the slab proudly. “This is my Tablet,” he said.

The Great Fall

In the old USSR the Communist Party took over all businesses and ran them. Badly. 1970s UK socialism tried the same thing, where various industries were nationalised and run by the Government. Badly.

These methodologies didn’t work, mainly because the disincentivised populace didn’t either. They gave us laziness, they gave us corruption, they gave us shoddy workmanship.

They gave us a mystery inside a riddle inside an enigma, when all they’d been trying to make was a doll inside a doll inside a doll.

Our Government opted not to follow that path. They went the capitalist route, where big businessmen could do what they liked, unregulated, as long as they let the Taoiseach call them by their first name and brought him for the occasional game of golf. Senior public officials were let into the scheme with huge salaries , ridiculous freedom as regards expense claims and the knowledge that if they got too greedy they would be let retire early on giant pensions, instead of being fired out the door of their department like a drunken cowboy being hurled headfirst out of a saloon.

This methodology didn’t work. It gave us laziness, it gave us corruption, it gave us shoddy workmanship.

So we’ve turned to Communism. We have nationalised our banks, taking the debts incurred by them upon our own shoulders while letting much of those boards remain in place. We will, for years and years to come, run the banks. Badly. But if you’re a writer of stuff that you like to delude yourself is funny, then yesterday was the final straw. The government’s collapse was like one of those 1960s bedroom farces, with lots of whispering, hidden liaisons, misunderstandings and with the main character running about clueless with no trousers on.

It’s just my luck. The government has nationalised comedy. And are brilliant at it.

Some Words of Norman Wisdom

In the beginning came the Vikings.

They came to Ireland in their longboats and longcoats and tried to take us over. They failed, fled back to the lands of fjords and abba, and no longer exist.

Next came the Normans. A load of people with names like Richard FitzRichard and Percy de Courcey arrived armed with Strongbow cider and had a go at running our country. They too are gone, vanished from the planet, remembered only in the occasional use of Norman as a first name for children who then face a life of slagging at school.

The English came next, and here the thread of my theme starts to unravel a bit since it is hard to claim that they no longer exist, especially since they are playing cricket on my TV at the moment. They have, however, lost their empire and find hilarious ways to get knocked out of the World Cup, so the central plank of my argument is still sound, and it is this.

We are the geographical equivalent of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Anyone who tries to enter us (er, I may come back to re-word that sentence later), pillage us or take our assets ends up cursed.

The EU have had a half-hearted go at ruling us from afar by bombarding us with treaties which we calmly bat back at them. In reprisal we invade their resorts with stag parties, people who drink while their kids fall into the pool and something known as the craic. We are destroying their currency right now, without even trying very hard.

The IMF are here now. Like Indiana Jones they have slipped in through a series of traps and spears (their route from the airport took them through the inner city) and intend to plunder what little cash we have left, take away our quangoes and put us on display for all the world to wonder at (mostly wondering “how the fuck did they lose so much money?”).

Good luck with that.

They should reflect that there was another organisation called the IMF, that the Mission Impossible group were actually known as the Impossible Missions Force, and IMF was printed on the folder out of which Jim used to take the pictures of his team (why did he have to do that, by the way, just how bad was his memory?). The current IMF may well come to find that this is an impossible mission, that within five years they will leave with their bailout between their legs, fleeing in terror from our brazen political lying, our brass-necked sense of entitlement and our relentless freckles.

The infiltrators of King Tut’s tomb met the curse of the Egyptian mummy. Wait till the IMF meet the Irish mammy.

Bata Fada

Tinson1 has been baton-charged!

Those of you who live in Ireland will have seen the yesterday’s TV footage of the Students’ Protest. I should explain to overseas readers that the country known as the Land of Saints and Scholars could not, of course, have University Fees, as that would discriminate against those who could not afford them. What we do have instead is a Registration Charge, using the kind of linguistic manoeuvring that got us the reputation as a Land of Scholars in the first place (both domestic rates and car tax have also been abolished in the past, and been replaced by annual charges which very quickly grew to a sum very like the tax they were supposed to replace). The Registration Charge currently stands at 1,500 Euro per annum.

Anyway, it is widely believed that the Fees Charges will be increased in the upcoming Budget to 3,000 Euro, as it’s important that we donate as much money as possible so that the Government can keep its State Cars, Government Jet and Ministerial Pensions. The Third-level students organised a Protest March to Government Buildings yesterday and Tinson1 joined in, which was sweet of him since it is us who pay the charge and not him.

The largely peaceful, cheerful, noisy protest reached the line of policemen outside Government Buildings and then things went wrong. Some students threw eggs, some threw beer cans, some students got into the lobby of the Department of Finance. The Gardai decided to wade into the crowd with batons and horses, and it was during the ensuing scramble that Tinson1 was hit over the shoulder with a baton.

How would you react to such jackboot tactics? He was thrilled. Mrs Tin said he arrived home beaming, and when I got home from work he raced out of his room to tell me about it, almost sparking with vibrant excitement.

We watched the news on every available channel last night, the Tinkids glued to it in the hope of seeing Tinson1, preferably in the act of being thumped. I said little during this, but I looked at the savage anger on the faces of many of the Gardai as these middle-aged men lashed out at people barely two years out of childhood and felt that a better writer than I could use it as a metaphor for how our generation has treated the one to come.

The post title is in Irish, by the way. Back when I was at school and corporal punishment was still allowed teachers used to brandish their “bata fada” if we misbehaved. The words mean “long stick”.

The long stick is still around, it’s just used more selectively now.

Stayin’ Alive

I’m going to live forever. Or as good as.

There has been a lot of gloom over the announcement yesterday by Social & Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin that the pension age is being increased, in stages, from the current age of 65 to 68. I took a lot of encouragement, though, from the reasons that she gave for doing it. Mary says:

“It is simply not sustainable that we can afford a pension system based on the current model which allows people to spend almost as long in retirement as they do in the workforce.”

I started work in 1975 and will be reach the current retirement age of 65 in 2022. By then I’ll have been working for 47 years, so Mary believes that I’m going to live on, a drain on the state’s resources (like a human Anglo-Irish Bank), until 2069.

By which time I’ll be 112. I’m in the age group described as middle-aged, but it turns out I’m not even half-way there yet. I’ve so much time ahead of me – I may yet learn to play the piano, may yet finish watching the box-set of Lost (or indeed, may yet start watching it), may yet finish decorating the second toilet (don’t bet on it, it’s been 24 years so far).

I may even manage to post just one post which doesn’t include a spelling mistake that I don’t notice until I look at the published version.

And I certainly will be a drain on the state. Taking it that my pacemaker battery lasts eight years it will be need to be changed seven times. That’s seven hospital visits. And I’ll have to do this as I’ll need to keep as healthy as possible to keep in pursuit of my pension, which will keep being pulled away just as I get there, like a steak on a piece of string used to tease a dog.

You can’t find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because you never quite reach the end of the rainbow. The same will now apply to my pension.

But at least I’m going to live a long time. Mary said so, and she’s a Government Minister, a former teacher, and has a picture of herself with Bono on her website, so she’s probably quite clever.

Or perhaps she’s just a brainless bat talking Pollyanna-type rubbish to hide the fact (not very well) that once again the Government have found a way to take our money.

As a TD, of course, Mary started qualifying for a TD’s pension after just two year’s service. She’ll get a full Ministerial Pension after she’s been a minister for 10 years. And she’ll get these pensions for many, many more years than that, which is hard to square with her statement above.

Still, I bear her no ill will. In fact, I wish her a long and happy retirement.

I just hope it starts soon.

Banana Nama – 2

Sorry, but I can’t let this topic go.

The Government’s NAMA has bought €77 billion worth of loans from the banks. The property relating to these loans is worth €47 billion, but we’re paying €54 billion for them. We’re told that it’s not a bailout, that NAMA will pursue the developers for their loans just as diligently as the banks would have. And I’ve no doubt that Brian Lenihan believes that.

Ok, let’s keep it simple.

A property company, Balls of Brass Limited, borrowed €1.5 million from AIB to buy a property. This property is now worth €1 million. We have bought the loan from AIB for €1.15 million, to reflect “long term economic value”.

Next week Balls of Brass goes into liquidation. It is entitled to do this, indeed obliged to, as it is hopelessly insolvent. Its only creditor, which is us, gets legal ownership of its only asset, the property which is worth €1 million.

And we’ve just paid €1.15 million for it.

And that’s the end of it. The company is in liquidation – effectively deceased – so there is no-one and nothing left to pursue. The company has met all its legal obligations by handing over its asset to its creditors. No-one has done anything legally wrong.

But we’ve just lost money, unless the Government intends to hang on to the building in the hope that prices will rise. What if they keep falling? At what stage does NAMA lose its nerve and sell for even less than the €1 million it’s supposedly worth now? 

Bank share prices surged on Thursday after the figures relating to NAMA were released. You can see why.

Banana Nama

So now we know.

The new National Asset Management Agency is to take €77 billion in “distressed” loans away from the banks.

The property to which these loans are related is currently valued at €47 billion, but we are paying €54 billion for the loans, to reflect “long-term economic value.”

Why? Because the banks need that amount, or they’ll be undercapitalised. So? Well, in which case we’d have to give them money. Oh.

That’s 7,000 million euro that we are paying out over and above what NAMA reckons the properties are worth at present.

And even those valuations are based on “the assumption that prices have fallen 50 per cent since 2007 and are now close to the bottom.”

Are they?

When we bought our house in 1985, it cost four-and-a-quarter times what I was earning then. Two years ago it was worth 12 times what I earn now, but as far as I can tell from sales around the area it’s still worth over eight times my current salary.

If I decide to sell it tomorrow, the buyer will need a mortgage. And you can bet your bottom dollar (which is probably all you have) that the attitude of the banks in the future will be very different to that of the last couple of years.

There will be no more 100% mortgages. The buyer will need a substantial deposit. The guidelines on the amount of the loan will be stricter, too. There will be no allowance made for predicted overtime or bonuses, or for the possibility that the buyer might get rent from prospective but currently mythical housemates.

They will stick to the old rules of granting a mortgage of 2-and-a half to three times one’s main salary, plus once any lower salary. Assuming the buyer earns roughly what I earn (anyone earning more would buy a better house), then the most they will be able to afford to pay is … about four-and-a-quarter times my current salary.

I’ve an awful feeling that prices still have a long way to fall, and will never again reach where they are even now.

Which means we’ve given the banks 7,000 million euro (seven billion doesn’t sound as much, does it?) that we’re unlikely to get back.

I think that’s frightening.

Oh Carroll

Those of you who live in Ireland will be familiar with the problems currently facing property developer Liam Carroll.

His Zoe Developments Group, builders and owners of hundreds of box-like little apartments all over Dublin, is currently deeply insolvent. One of the banks to whom it owes money has applied for, and been granted, the right to appoint a liquidator.  Zoe set out to block this by applying to the High Court for “Examinership” – a court-backed protection from its creditors while an attempt was made to see if it could work out a rescue plan. This was rejected by the High Court, since the Group’s evidence was

(a) Our assets will eventually be worth enough to cover our loans, but we won’t tell you how much they’ll be worth, because that’s sensitive financial information, and

(b) Our banks, other than the one pursuing us, will back us all the way, but we’ve brought no letters from them or anything to confirm that. (Anyone who thinks I’m unjustly belittling the evidence they produced should read the court report).

The judge shot their case down. Therefore they appealed it to the Supreme Court, as is of course their right.

The Supreme Court turned them down as well, so they applied to … well, the High Court.

They went along, said sorry, Liam Carroll is temporarily not well, it was his idea to give you no info last time, now here’s some letters & stuff, please can we have another go.

The judge said this was most unusual, and he was very reluctant to re-hear a case which had already been rejected by the High Court and Supreme Court, but – and here’s the important part – he agreed to hear it anyway.

So Zoe produced all its evidence.And, as of Thursday, it lost again (this time the judge said that the figures that it produced were either “badly presented or just plain wrong.” Wonder how much its Accountants will charge for that).

Anyway, the reason for this post is that amongst the more detailed evidence that Zoe produced was the little nugget that it was intended that no interest be paid on Anglo Irish Bank’s loan until 2014.

That’s the Anglo Irish Bank that we had to nationalise after its corrupt chairman, reckless lending and inept management brought it to the brink of collapse.

In other words, that’s us.

So, had Zoe’s application for Court Protection succeeded, then one of the biggest property developers in this state, one of those whose greed helped cause of all our tax increases, benefit cuts and job losses, would not have had to pay us any interest on the money he owes us for five years.

Do you remember agreeing to that?

Blame it on the Buggy

Last year, here in Ireland we were grudgingly impressed by the sheer gall of ex-FAS Chief Executive Rody Molloy, who claimed that, since he was “entitled” to travel first class to New York, by not availing of this option he could use the saving to bring his wife along, and we taxpayers should be happy with that.

In the UK there has been reluctant admiration for the creativity of their politicians, with their expense claims for moats and duck houses, and their ability to pass their “second residence” designation back and forth like a frisbee.

When it comes to true corruption, however, we in these islands are still rank amateurs. Step proudly forward India.

Two three-star army generals there had 27 golf carts paid for by the army by passing them off as military vehicles.

Golf buggyThe first guy bought five of them, calling them “motorised carts for medical patients” and had them delivered to various hospitals before moving them to several golf courses. His successor bought the other 22, listing them as  “track alignment reconnaissance vehicles (TARVs) for sapper units”.

Bizarrely, instead of admitting the wrongdoing, and punishing those involved, the ministry of defence defended (well, that’s what they do) the golf cart purchases to the Comptroller and Auditor General, claiming that they “facilitated the noiseless reconnaissance in close proximity to the enemy and helped in quick laying of track material”.

In my opinion, the CAG should call their bluff, and during the next military engagment in India (and they’re not that infrequent) he should ensure that the two generals concerned, and any other officials involved in their justification, are sent out to fight in the buggies. They may indeed “facilitate noiseless reconnaissance”, but the generals just might find that this advantage is outweighed by the fact that they are sitting on a battlefield in a glorified supermarket trolley that has no armour, no weaponry, and a top speed of nine miles an hour.

A golf cart is not a military vehicle. Unless, of course, all the years I’ve been misunderstanding the meaning of the phrase “Hitler’s bunker”.

On The Doorsteps

From Saturdays’ Irish Times:

As if Fianna Fáil general secretary Seán Dorgan hasn’t enough to contend with at the moment, a bogus letter supposedly signed by him has being doing the rounds of websites in the last couple of days. Written on party-headed notepaper, it appears to convey instructions to party workers on how to deal with difficulties faced when canvassing.

Seán Dorgan received a copy of the letter yesterday morning. “It’s not genuine. Clearly, it’s my signature, but nothing else. This is juvenile politics and nothing else. It’s a complete and utter fake and forgery.”

CanvassingHere, however, are the instructions that he really did send out.

1.  Tippex out the words “Fianna Fáil” on your leaflets.

2.  When the voter opens the door, don’t infuriate him by telling him straight out you’re from Fianna Fáil. Tell him you’re a Jehovah’s Witness.

3. If he rails against the bankers, nod sadly and say “I know, they’re fuckers”.

4. Blame everything on the Progressive Democrats – after all, they’re gone now.

5. If he says he has lost his job, don’t say “yes, but more importantly, if you don’t vote for me, I’ll lose mine too”.

6. Any instruction to “shove your leaflets up your hole” should not be followed literally.

7. If he tries to blame Fianna Fáil for banjaxing the economy,  say “you’re right, and as our punishment you should keep voting us back in until we fix it”. This logic is so daft that it might actually work.

8. Keep a car running outside the gate.