Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Irish Financial Markets - who's to blame?

Much of the commentary on the current crisis in financial markets is badly ill-informed e.g. there is very little similarity between the US sub-prime market and the Irish mortgage market.

Everyone seems happy to blame the crisis on the greed of the banks. That allows us, the great unwashed, forget about our own greed – who was it again who was going to be the major beneficiary of ever-rising house prices?

The government is more than happy to allow banks to take the blame. But who was there priming the pumps with tax reliefs/special schemes for first-time buyers (who were mainly investors!), investors and property developers?

Politicians (e.g. PDs), media commentators (e.g. Shane Ross) etc all shouted for more competition in the mortgage market. Enter HBOS (and motor-mouth Mark Duffy) giving 100% mortgages – all the domestic lenders are forced to follow suit, some to a much greater extent than others.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, so let’s share it out on a more equitable basis: the Government, the banks and the borrowers all need to share the load.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Damian Hirst - eat your heart out!

God, isn't it a depressing time? The country is officially in recession, the arse has fallen out of the stock market – particularly the financial sector to which I am heavily exposed – and my house is worth a couple of hundred thousand euros less than it was a year ago, and with further to fall. All thoughts of divorce must be deferred.

How to find a suitable scam to reverse these severe financial setbacks?

Then I read of Damian Hirst’s recent auction results at Sotheby’s – in two days he sold over stg£100m of his art, aka crap. His is the ultimate scam – it’s “conceptual art” so he doesn’t even need to make the damn things himself, merely come up with the idea and get some workshop to make the piece, to which he only has to append his signature.

So I headed into Fannin’s medical suppliers in town and bought a plastic skull. Then down to Wicklow where I collected several sacks of sheeps droppings – those rounded pebbles of shit they leave scattered like black currants on the grass.

Now I’m busy, rubber-gloved, sticking the little balls of sheep shit to the skull which I’m hopeful of exhibiting and selling for a small fortune, even if it’s just a serious piss-take on the works of Master conman Hirst. Of course, my artistic skull isn’t that pleasant to handle and, in hot weather, the whiff is pretty foul, but that shouldn’t deter the serious art poseur. Collectors too must be prepared to suffer for their art, after all.

Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull in titled “For the Love of God”. I’m sure my effort will evoke a similar response, perhaps with even more gusto.

Of course, to stage an “exhibition” I’ll need more than just one piece so I’m also working on a major formaldehyde exhibit, “Motion in poetry”. I thought that one of my turds suspended in a glass case would rival Hirst’s famous multi-million £ sharks. My inspiration was a former work colleague who, returning from the loo after a successful drop, would inform all and sundry “that one will be stalking the sewers”.

Naturally, such an installation will also require a truly specimen-class stool and my efforts to date have been frustrated by the piles. Routine inspection of the drop has, to date, failed to reveal a suitable specimen. Nevertheless, I remain confident that my increased intake of bran will, in due course, produce the goods.

After that I have in mind a series of projectile vomit paintings that should sell like hot cakes.

There’ll be no stopping me!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

ABBA for President!

No, I’m not getting carried away by the success of Mamma Mia the movie, or on a wave of nostalgia for the fab four from Sweden.

Cecilia Ahern was widely quoted in the media during the past week, extolling the virtues of her father and opining that he would make a wonderful president.

President Mary McAleese isn’t due to leave the park until 2011, but it can never be too early to start an “Anyone but Bertie Ahern” campaign.

Footnote: An edited (by IT) version published as a letter in the Irish Times.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lipstick on a pig - Irish Economic Management

In a letter published in today’s Irish Times, Dan O’Brien, Senior Editor – Economist Intelligence Unit, points out that the EU Commission's evaluation of Ireland's public finances management, contained in "The Public Finances in EMU" (2007), placed Ireland last among the 18 EU countries it assessed in its overall rankings.
On its specific measure of prudence in budget planning, Ireland not only ranked last, but uniquely failed even to register a score.

Strong and scary stuff, indeed! Why haven’t we heard this cited before – either by opposition spokesmen or the media?

Might this suggest that the Government’s claim to a record of competent management of the economy in the boom years is an attempt to put lipstick on a pig?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pit-bulls in the White House?

What’s the difference between Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin? Lipstick?

The two-term Bush regime has never been short of pit-bulls. The rest of the world has learnt that this particular breed should have no place in the
White House.