Author Archives: Tony Groves

From top: Two cows; Tony Groves

Irish Socialism: You have 2 cows. They don’t get along. They each claim their milk is the best in the country. But neither of them has ever produced any milk.

Irish Capitalism:
You have 2 cows. You eat both. You ask the EU to lend you 2 more cows. You again eat both. The EU calls you to ask why you’ve not fulfilled your milk quota. You stall them and ask the IMF for 2 more cows. Once again you eat both. The EU and the IMF then come to Dublin looking for their milk. You’re out shopping at a Bulgarian Property Expo.

Irish Libertarianism: You have 2 cows. You demand that everyone else be issued with 2 cows. But only after you’ve sold 1 cow, bought a bull, increased your herd and gotten a government contract to supply cows.

Fine Gael:
You have 2 cows. You sell 1 cow and force the other cow to produce the milk of 4 cows. Later, you commission an inquiry into the cow’s death.

Fianna Fáil
: You have 2 cows. You kill them. You get 2 more cows and promise this time it will be better. You kill them, again.

Sinn Féin: You have 2 cows. You’d like to grow your herd, but nobody will sell you a bull.

The Social Democrats:
You have 2 cows. You used to have 3.

The Labour Party: You have 2 cows. You gave them to Fine Gael in 2011. 5 years later you asked for them back. They don’t respond to your request. You ask the public for 2 new cows. They don’t respond to your request.

AAA/PBP: You have 2 cows. You give them to the party and then demand the government give you 2 more.

The Green Party:
You have 2 cows. You love them.

Leoliberalism: You have 2 cows. They are very attractive but their milk is conservative and bland.

Simon Coveney: You have 2 cows. You sell 3 of them to Greencore. You then execute a debt for equity swap, ensuring you the rights to 4 cows.
You then sell the milking rights of 5 cows via an intermediary to a Holding Company based in Luxembourg, who then issue you a deed for 6 cows.
Your annual report says you own 7 cows, with the option of 2 more.
Meanwhile, your 2 cows are living in emergency accommodation.

Gerry Adams: You have 2 cows. No one buys your milk. But that’s not the substantive issue…

Catherine Murphy: You have 2 cows. If it wasn’t for Dáil privilege no one would have known how they’d been treated.

Brendan Howlin: You have 2 cows. You decreased their feed and demand they produce more milk. One dies and the other emigrates and is forced to work as horse. You blame Socialism.

Paul Murphy: You have 2 cows. You organise a sit down protest, block all the roads and demand you get 3 cows over a megaphone.

Micheal Martin:
You have 2 cows. You eat 1 and milk the other. You then throw the milk away, because Paul Murphy got elected on a promise to be lactose intolerant.

Enda Kenny:
You have 2 cows. 42 years later you discover 1 of them is a donkey.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Top pic: Joe Fox via Saatchi Gallery

From top: Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan (pointing) and EU Chief Negotiator on Brexit Michel Barnier (second left) visit the the border between County Monaghan and South Armagh, Northern Ireland; Tony Groves

Saddam Hussein once said “politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another. Then you do neither what you said, nor what you intended”.

I think Saddam would be proud of the political machinations of Brexit.

Given the duplicitousness of current political events, I’m not sure this Brexit thing is going to be all that bad for Ireland. Even casual observers can see a border wall (just on the edge of the horizon) as a boon for struggling developers.

Tom Parlon’s Construction Industry Federation, can claim the checkpoints are housing units and Simon Coveney will add them to the thousands of phantom homes he’s conjured from the ether.

If Irish planning efficiency has taught us anything, it’s that we can get at least 15 construction tenders, 20 obscenely expensive architectural designs and a decade or more out of the planning process? Someone alert the Consultants!

We could have petrol stations running kid’s colouring competitions; draw your own border checkpoint. The winning entry could be brought to life by Dermot Bannon, in a cacophony of crayon and concrete; the entire block tastefully rimmed with barbed wire. I’m sure some minor celebrity could cut the ribbon in exchange for dual citizenship of both jurisdictions?

The War of Words between Theresa May and Jean Claude Juncker, rather than something Ireland should worry about, is a boon to Irish diplomacy. Nobody stands to benefit more from speaking out of both sides of their mouth than the Irish Government.

Who else can have claimed, not once but twice, that Ireland is to be treated as a “special case” by the European Union, while actually achieving no special deals?

Theresa May is claiming that the EU is trying to interfere in the British election. Juncker is claiming that English will no longer be spoken in the EU. Both are on a diplomatic war footing.

Ireland, meanwhile, is to remain (pun intended) neutral. And by neutral I mean turn off the lights and hope they both think we aren’t home until this all blows over.

Theresa May has laid out a plan, which is a plan to look at all available plans. She wants to explore all the options available while availing of none. Well slap me in the face with a retired judge, this is a job for Ireland Inc.

Sure isn’t Ireland Inc. the best country in the world for making world class plans, to be world class in something or other, by some far off future date?

We have panels of experts whose entire expertise is in delivering plans on the best way to hold a press conference, where plans will be unveiled to deliver new plans by 2020. Fail to plan, plan to fail, plan for your plans to fail, blame Brexit. Come on Ireland, we can do this!

There’s so much more positives to this Hard Brexit outcome. I mean, due to machinations of Banking, a financial passport is required to carry out complex financial schemes, such as rate fixing or insider trading.

Luckily our Central Bank is very experienced in looking the other way. It’s no wonder the City of London’s banks have identified Dublin as the brass plate, post-Brexit destination of choice.

I hardly think the Shadow Banking Sector, already the fourth biggest in the world and eight times the size of the Irish economy, need fear any constraints on rampant profiteering from Ireland Inc. Sure aren’t they “too big to fail.”

Enterprise Ireland could tempt more of these businesses with the tagline (once I get my royalty fee):

Ireland: Come for the Hard Brexit. Stay for the Soft Regulation

Besides, even if the banks and financial arms of the Multinational Companies don’t want to move here physically, we have brave volunteers across the country willing to allow them set up shop for little more than the price of a Brass Plate.

Sure isn’t there a house in Glasnevin, that has 124 “companies” operating from it. 124 companies in a small 3 bed house.

We are screaming blue murder about a housing crisis, yet one small suburban house accommodates 124 companies. Airbnb must be dying to get a look inside those doors.

The EU is talking about stretching the Brexit divorce out for years. They’ve warned the UK that the trade deal between the EU and Canada took nearly a decade to negotiate. Bloody EU amateurs, sure didn’t we have the Moriarty Tribunal start in 1997 and isn’t it still waiting to be acted upon?

Yes folks, Hard Brexit is going to be okey-dokey. With a little bit of creative thinking, we won’t have to do any more thinking. With a little bit of forward planning, we won’t have to make any more plans.

Because this is Ireland Inc. An open economy, and if Britain is getting into the business of becoming a closed economy, then Ireland Inc. is open to that as well.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

Tony Groves

We are an emotional species. Certain things catch the zeitgeist, and certain things fade into obscurity. When we read that Stephen Fry was under investigation for blasphemy we entered a collective secular outrage. The irony that the investigation was dropped due to a lack of outrage wasn’t, I hope, lost on us all.

This website was the target of a popular outrage for publishing a link to a video. The scorn poured forth was enough to get Broadsheet to remove the link. For my part, I did not view the video. I had read pieces by the woman in question and can only say I found her pieces beautifully written and brutally honest.

People who knew her were, and continue to be, rightly upset. I understand the outrage and find myself in agreement with much of it. Yet I am uncomfortable with the decision to remove the link. Let me explain my reasons.

Ray Rice was a Super Bowl winning running back with the Baltimore Ravens. He is the team’s second all-time leading rusher behind Jamal Lewis, and is also second in rushing attempts and touchdowns, and third in combined touchdowns. All this is to say, Ray Rice was very, very good at football.

But Ray Rice is also a perpetrator of domestic violence. In February 2014, he assaulted his wife (then fiancee) in a casino elevator he was arrested and charged with aggravated-assault. The incident was a scandal. The video, released by TMZ, showed him dragging his unconscious partner from the elevator. The NFL waited until July to act. Ray Rice was suspended for 2 games.

I’ll say that again, 2 Games.

The criminal charges were dropped after Rice agreed to undergo court supervised counseling.

I’ll say that again, the charges were dropped.

The Baltimore Ravens accepted the punishment and said they were satisfied Rice was getting help and that he was “part of the Ravens family”.

I’ll say that again, part of the Ravens family.

Then in September, TMZ released the video from inside the elevator. The video shows Rice punching his fiancee in the face. It is a sickening blow delivered by a terrifyingly powerful man. The video went viral and the outrage, belatedly, exploded.

Ray Rice had his contract terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. The owner of the team made a public apology. The NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also apologised and changed the entire league’s Domestic Abuse Policy. The NFL even appointed a former FBI Director to investigate the debacle.

As saddenning as it is to admit it, it was the video that jarred people into outrage. It was the video that drove everyone to demand a change in policy and an end to tokenism. It was the video.

I’m not condoning Broadsheet’s publishing of the link. I’m certainly not condemning people for feeling it was the wrong thing to do. I am asking whether, in the age of 140 characters and 4 second vines, if we need to open our eyes to horrible truths sometimes, no matter how uncomfortable and upsetting they are?

I’m asking does a over-sanitising of events allow culprits slip away relatively unpunished? I don’t know. I know I’m outraged that a good woman is dead. I’m outraged that a rare diamond will no longer shine.

Again, I did not watch the video. I feel I don’t need to in order to know a despicable thing occurred. I’d love to harness the outrage. I’d love to aim it towards a government that has slashed the Mental Health Budget. I’d love for all of us disgusted by these events to email our local TD and tell him we are outraged about the state of our Mental Health Support Services, I know I am.

But that’s not how outrage works. In order for outrage to work effectively it needs a zeitgeist. Outrage needs a focus and a goal. But sometimes outrage needs a video.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Yesterday: Disgusting

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From top: Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney; Tony Groves

There are more than a few banker clichés that I grew up with. I’m sure many of them are not unique to the banking fraternity, but they were certainly retold at every conference I attended. Lately, they’ve started reappearing, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

The first tale told is that the director driving a BMW is displaying ambition, whereas the director driving a Mercedes is displaying achievement. As infantile as this is, there are many who give this consideration when purchasing their cars. I’m a BMW guy, SAD!

As I heard this regurgitated again recently, I remembered another boast of the Mercedes man. Many moons ago, as a young subordinate, I was “privileged” to drive to one of these conferencess with one of these directors, sitting inside one of these brand new Mercedes.

Stepping inside it back then was like stepping inside an Apple Store long before the advent of the iPhone. I must have looked impressed, because the director told me that if I look at the features of the car (and there were many) that I’d see them in about ten years time on a Ford Mondeo. Technology, much like neoliberal economics, is a trickle-down process.

The same can be said for Irish Politics. When Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, he became the first Tory leader of the British Labour Party. He ran on a promise that “things can only get better” and aimed his message at what he identified as “Mondeo Man”. Blair cleverly rebranded this move away from social democratic values to free market economic ones as “New Labour“.

The party replaced promises of delivering equality for the libertarian myth of equality of opportunity. They moved away from the idea of government delivering social justice, to a free market that would improve economic efficiency.

They spoke of hand ups, not handouts. In essence they Out Toried the Tories. And Mondeo Man loved it. Under the New Tory Labour things did indeed, for a while, get better.

Without rehashing the disaster that became the “free market” financial crisis and the other lingering global aftershocks, we know now that the New Labour “third way” was used to build an economy based on Rent Seekers and very little innovation. Many historians are now pointing to the New Labour phenomenon as the birthplace of the Brexit phenomenon.

Much as Mercedes features take years to filter down into the less salubrious car manufacturers, so to does political ideology. Particularly here in Ireland. Leo Varadkar has said he is not Right Wing, but had he been born in Britain he’d have been a Tory. Simon Coveney is Fine Gael royalty.

Both men advocate that the free market will improve economic efficiency and therefore provide equality of opportunity down the line. This is despite all the recent economic data running contrary to this.

The Budget Projections for 2017 said that unemployment would fall to 7%, it’s down to 6.2%. Yet Income Tax is a few hundred million below expectations. The government are said to be perplexed.

Fine Gael are demanding that the Revenue Commissioners investigate this and get back to them, post-haste. But in truth there is no mystery. The income tax levels are behind because the real economy is growing on lower paid workers and the Gig Economy.

It’s important that we realise that New Politics is old New Labour. It’s crucial that we see that our candidates for Taoiseach are economically Tory Blairites. Only then can we have a honest conversation about the type of society we want to build.

Do we want to a fairer society, where everybody is afforded access to social justice, or do we want a country where a few drive new Mercedes and the rest sputter along in a 20 year old Ford Mondeo, that will never pass an NCT?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

monkey

tonygroves

From top: Are you a hidden Flying Monkey?; Tony Groves

Crouching troll?

Or hidden Flying Monkey?

Tony Groves writes:

Whenever I send in a “new piece” I think of that scene in Jurassic Park. You know the one where Sam Neill’s character, Dr Alan Grant, mock eviscerates a boy while explaining about the pack hunter mentality of Velociraptors? As the blood drains from the child’s face, Dr Grant completes the humiliation with the clincher:

“The point is, you are alive when they start to eat you”.

There’s always a little bit of self-immolation in the clicking of the send email button. Knowing I’m about to piss off one group or another (isn’t that the point) and that some faction will turn their Flying Monkeys on me.

Flying Monkeys, for those unfamiliar with the term, are a gang of, very often, anonymous individuals, who act out the orders of their particular Wicked Witch.

The natural habitat of the Flying Monkey is the internet, on social media, chat rooms and online comments sections. While most are proponents of argument techniques like deflection, whataboutery, ad hominem attacks and straw man bluster, some of them are witty and not without a kernel of truth.

I confess to getting more than a little fun out of the Broadsheet Flying Monkeys. You guys are all alright, not Alt-Right…

The more malignant Flying Monkey is less easy to spot. These are the Party Loyalists, who defend the latest betrayal of an election promise by claiming the disenfranchised “need to see the bigger picture”. They will defend the indefensible out of loyalty to tribe.

The other variety like to hang out in the “political reports” of the majority of newspaper pieces. You’ve probably seen one today if you browsed through any of our “papers of record.”
In “political reporting”, the Flying Monkey is more easily recognised, once you know what the traits are.

A journalist who writes a piece a based on views expressed by “a source close to” or from an unnamed “advisor” or the very often anonymous “party spokesperson” is a Flying Monkey.

By allowing “anonymous sources” disseminate unverified and unverifiable information into your news feed the Monkey helps his “paper of record” stay close to the source of power and the politician (who is very often the source in question) keeps the journalist on side.

The reader, already inclined to believe said journalist, eats the propaganda and uses it to reinforce their views. This is mass production of confirmation bias.

It’s important to say that there are many valid reasons that one would want to maintain anonymity. Should one be say, a Whistleblower, especially in Ireland, you would almost certainly be better maintaining anonymity.

Ask the courageous Dr Jim Gray, who called the travesty of our health service for what it was and was quickly rounded on by the then Minister for Health and defender of the Welfare Budget, Leo Varadkar.

Back then the Minister’s Flying Monkeys leaked spurious accusations about the doctor and the compliant media reported these claims rather than the ongoing crisis in the Health Service.

When I put my occupation on a blog post last year, a few people told me I was either brave or stupid. But I think it says more that someone’s means to make a living and pay their mortgage could be deemed to be at risk because of a world view contrary to the Flying Monkey Brigade!

This may seem a fantastical claim, but worryingly, it is not. I recently discovered I’ve been blocked on twitter, by large swathes of a certain political party for “being unfair” to them in my writings. It appears some of these Flying Monkey’s only believe in Freedom of Speech when the speaker is of the same opinion as themselves.
A government that can mute dissent can silence anyone they choose to and point to the legislation for justification. Martin Luther King said “don’t be more devoted to order than you are to justice…that an unjust law is no law” in a letter penned from an Alabama Prison Cell.

I believe strongly in the Freedom of Speech and while I used to be tempted to “Block” the Flying Monkeys, I find it ultimately unnecessary. People have the right to their opinions, they have the right to express them. They, like me, have the right to be wrong. We should all defend that right, whether we agree with them or not.
So whether you’re called a Shinnerbot, a Lefty Loony, a Political Hack or good old Rotide, it’s all good. Dissent is good for debate, debate is necessary for progress.
But look out for the Flying Monkeys. Recognise them for what they are. They can be apologists, propagandists and or salesmen. They are selling snake oil, and a snake oil salesman is to be pitied.

And if you still feel tempted to block them, remember, as I do, Saul Bellow who said

“A man should be able to hear and bear the worst that could be said of him”.

*turns off notifications for a few days*

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Top pic: Shutterstock

coveney:varadkartonygroves

From top: Simon Coveney, Leo Varadkar and Tony Groves

The manipulation of data, and the toleration of it by large swathes of the population and the media, is a blocker to us fixing underlying issues.

Tony Groves writes:

When Herodotus wrote the story of the Persian invasion of Greece 480BC, it’s generally accepted that he used a little poetic licence with the numbers.

His story records an invading army of 5 million soldiers. Modern scholars reduce this figure to 500,000 and most believe the real figure was closer to 200,000.

The question we should be asking isn’t, ‘was it 5 million or 200,000?’. The real question is why was there such a vast difference between the story and the actual boots on the ground?

Some have speculated that this was because the Greeks weren’t very good at dealing with large numbers. It’s an interesting view. Was there a numeracy issue in the cradle of democracy? Maybe, it’s true that the Greek word for countless/innumerable, is the same word for 10,000.

So, anything beyond 10,000 was just said to be innumerable, and whatever number suited their purpose might be applied. The exaggeration makes the Greek’s victory a thing of mythic proportions.

The reason for this little excursion down Herodotus Way, is to point out the old Greek numeracy issues in modern-day Ireland.

We’ve had a Minister for Social Protection exaggerate social welfare fraud to be €500million, when the figure is actually closer to €50million.

We’ve had a Minister for Housing tell us almost 15,000 houses were built last year, when the figure was closer to 3,000.

We’ve seen gardaí overstate breathalyser tests by 1 million.

We’ve had a Minister for Finance exaggerate his fiscal space. Not to mention the “Leprechaun Economics” of corporate tax profits flying into Ireland, in advance of the EU’s Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base Plan.

We’ve had Irish Water tell us 70% of people were paying, even though the money taken in amounted to less than 35% of people’s bills.

We’ve had Irish Water marches that were attended by tens of thousands, reported as a few thousand.

All of this would be funny, if it weren’t so serious.

Nobody is condoning welfare fraud, but exaggerating a 1-2% problem only demonises the most vulnerable in our society and deflects from the bigger issue of poor government management of the welfare system.

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has gotten away with peddling exaggerated housing numbers by using the ‘It was like that when I got here’-Bart Simpson defence. Shortly, we will have him claim to have achieved his promise to have no families homeless by the end of July.

But this will be another statistical fudge. Homeless families are to be put into hubs and then reclassified out of the homeless statistics and into some sort of purgatorial nowhere zone.

The manipulation of data, and the toleration of it by large swathes of the population and the media, is a blocker to us fixing underlying issues. Only by assessing the problem correctly can we make a plan fit for purpose.

Allowing Official Ireland play with numbers costs lives. People on trolleys and people on our streets aren’t statistical tools for manipulation. They are your mother, your sister, your granny, etc.

Those at the coalface such as Inner City Helping Homeless, put faces on numbers. People like Lorcan Sirr, point out that bad data leads to bad planning. The manipulation of data in Ireland plays to the worst of our biases. It reinforces our, conscious or unconscious, view that people can be reclassified and therefore made statistically less than.

Herodotus exaggerated to make the Greeks glorious.

Today, we do it for a myriad of reasons. Most of them self-serving. This is not the sole fault of Government. We, as a country, play with numbers to lessen crises and to pretend we are helping those worse off.

What’s the Irish for innumerable?

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

02 Cruinniu na Casca B_90508961

tonygroves

From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys at Cruinniú na Cásca on Custom House Quay , Dublin last week; Tony Groves.

The drugs are not working.

Someone tell Enda.

Tony Groves, who is not suggesting either the Taoiseach or Minister for Foreign affairs are on the Big O, writes:

Charlie Flanagan is my muse this week. Now there’s a sentence I never imagined typing. Nonetheless, it was our Minister for Foreign Affairs, that embedded the ear-worm that necessitated this piece.

While listening to a BBC interview of a Palestinian Authority Minister and an Israeli General about the history of terror, the conversation digressed to the Irish troubles, and from there to the current Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Flanagan was said to be “unhelpful” in his interventions with the Israeli and Palestinian parties.

In fact, the Palestinian Minister went so far as to say that he missed the old Minister Cohen (sic). I presume he meant Brian Cowen, whom he mentioned had sent him a message on LinkedIn recently. The mind boggles.

Then Charlie reentered my mind by telling Matt Cooper on Today FM, that the forthcoming British Election made Enda Kenny “essential to Ireland and our future”. Enda Kenny, essential? The mind truly boggles.

So it’s in this discombobulated mindset that I remembered another person who was considered “essential” to his country, but in reality was a hindrance.

On Tuesday June 6 1944, a man considered essential for the prosperity of his country got out of bed a little later that usual. He met with his Doctor, as scheduled and received his daily medication, Eukadol.

While all around him were losing their heads in panic, he jovially clapped them on the back and flashed a beaming smile. At lunch, while the news was going from bad to worse, he (a strict vegetarian) enjoyed “semolina dumpling soup, mushrooms in a ring of rice and a delicious apple strudel.

He then lectured his subordinates on elephants. Telling them how the “strongest animals in existence”, like him, abhorred meat. He added a lengthy bloody tale about his experience of a Polish abattoir, to reinforce his point.

All the while, unbeknownst to his browbeaten underlings, his Doctor was preparing his afternoon medication; a concoction made from the glands of the slaughtered animals. The chemical infused mind boggles.

When Enda Kenny went dancing at the Cruinniú last weekend, we saw a jovial, backslapping leader, who cannot see the many crises in front of his face. When he tweeted about feeling the pulse of the country, he must have had his morning medication, Eukadol.

You see, Eukadol is an opiate. It was given to Adolf Hitler to stop his headaches and terrifying temper tantrums. Hitler was an opium addict. He was also pumped up with animal hormones extracted from testicles and glands almost daily.

As the Allies landed on D Day, the Fuhrer was not putting a brave face on the disaster that was facing his country, he was not showing how his calming influence was essential to his country. Hitler was away in Cloud-Cuckoo-Land.

I’m not making false equivalences between Hitler and Enda. You can put Godwin’s Law back in your filing cabinet. I’m simply pointing out that the disaster that was World War II was made worse by subordinates attributing talents to a leader that clearly were not present. The Yes Men never called stop.

I’m saying we are repeating this trick, with a Taoiseach who needs to leave immediately. We need a government of action, unconcerned with beauty pageant leadership contests and not distracted by a lap of honour running leader. A Taoiseach who is already forgotten, just not gone. It’s time Fine Gael grew a pair.

Charlie Flanagan is lost in an opium mist if he believes the country is better served by a Lame Duck Enda Kenny. The public need to let the politicians know that the Emperor has no clothes. Enda Kenny is going to meet the EU Heads of State, on April 29. He should resign the next day.

Coincidentally, Adolf Hitler died on April 30. There’s a opium like, mind boggling symmetry to that, no?

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

1916 EVENTS 758A7847_90508930(1)

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From top: Simon Coveney, Richard Bruton and Leo Varadkar; Tony Groves

We have a Rental Crisis in this country. I’m not talking about the Daft.ie, Daft Rental Crisis, although that certainly is a Crisis. A small bedroom, as part of a house-share at €900 per month is a Crisis. But the Rent Crisis I’m referring to is caused by what economists call Rent-Seeking.

A Rent-Seeker is a person or entity that seeks to increase their share of wealth, without actually creating any wealth.

Rent-Seekers look to use their wealth and influence to reduce economic efficiency in a way that will increase the value of their particular pot of gold. The best Rent-Seekers find ways to take something that used to be free and introduce a charge for it.

Sound familiar?

It’s important to note that not all Rent-Seekers are Big Multinational Companies, Banks or Private Healthcare Companies; although many of these are. There are less obvious Rent-Seekers all around us.

Politically they tend to be Right Wing Capitalists who espouse Libertarian, Free Market Views. But ideologically they are Selectively Libertarian and are only interested in freeing up the market to their advantage. They tend to say nasty things about the Left and label anybody who talks of tackling inequality as “grasping, deluded, spiteful and envious“.

Many of them, like Leader in Waiting, Leo Varadkar tend to air their extreme Right Wing views by suggesting we privatise 20 Dublin Bus Routes, or suggest migrant workers should only receive 3 months dole as an incentive to leave. But he quickly glosses over his Far Right leanings by mentioning equality of opportunity in an Irish Independent puff piece.

Rent-Seekers are the ‘Haves’ in our Society. They have accumulated wealth without creating any. Generational Landlords and the like. Many of them sit in the Dáil. How can you expect Rent-Seeking Politicians to seriously tackle the Rental Crisis they are benefiting from?

These fake free marketeers are, for the most part, liars. They are all for the free market when it comes to eroding public services. They are all for the free market, with incentives, when it comes to their particular fiefdoms. The Construction Industry Federation spends more money on lobbying than the Construction Industry those on building Lobbies.

Why? It’s quite simple. If you need to invest one million euro in “incentives” in order to game the free market, but stand to make a billion euro from the rejig then why not! Think it’s a miracle we aren’t more corrupt? Have a read of the Tullock Paradox.

Think about it. 50% of Irish workers earn less than €30,000. By 2014 we had the highest percentage of Low Paid Workers in the OECD. Most workers have suffered wage stagnation for a decade. Yet there are 7,000 new Irish Millionaires in 2016. How does this happen? Rent-Seekers.

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Rent-Seekers and or free market libertarians decry the Welfare State. They should celebrate it. Cormac Lucey, Chairman of the Hibernia Forum likes to use the above Gini Index to show inequality isn’t that bad. What he fails to mention is that  our spending on Welfare lifts the lower paid out of extreme poverty.

He neglects to say that the Welfare Bill is a bargain. It’s a small price to pay in order to avoid things like a wealth tax, or a fair Corporation Tax. The Welfare bill keeps the pressure off the Rent-Seekers. If these state supports weren’t in place Paddy would really want to know who isn’t playing fair.

A total of 1.9 million people receive some payment from the Department of Social Protection, Pensioners, Carers, and Job-seekers etc. This is down from 2.2 million in 2013. The total spend is €19 billion per year. In other words the same amount of money the EU Commission say Apple owes us in back taxes and interest. Yet Leo Varadkar launched a “hard-hitting” publicity campaign regarding Welfare Cheats!

Ask a fake free market libertarian, their views on immigration. Watch them tell you that only markets should be free, people should be restricted because of a quirk of birthplace and some lines drawn on a map a few hundred years ago.

Ask a fake free market libertarian, their views on a wealth tax, or wealth redistribution. Watch them call you a Communist and insist that they gained their wealth via some sort of talent that makes them better than you or I.

A real Free Market Libertarian, Professor of Economics Bryan Caplan, advocates for the Free Market as a fair and just way for people to deal with each other.

He advocates for a Free Market that includes the free movement of people. In his own words “the single greatest loss to the world right now is the talent trapped in poor countries, where they can only function at a small fraction of their potential productivity”.

Think of all that untapped potential, stuck because of people/corporations (who espouse equality of opportunity) are Rent-Seeking. Think of the wealth creation missed out upon because fake free market libertarians are busy rigging the system, domestically and globally, to grow their percentage share of the pie.

The fake free market libertarians are the like the new politics. They create and do nothing productive. They generate no new innovations and inhibit real entrepreneurial spirits. They limit competition in their fields.

They are Leo Varadkar, hinting at tax cuts for the wealthy, while punching down at those on Social Welfare. They are Simon Coveney, worried about EU Water Fines, but unconcerned about EU Emissions Fines.

They are Vertex Pharmaceutical, charging €159,000 per patient, per year for Orkambi. They are Irish Retail Banks with Mortgage Interest Rates 2.5% above the EU average. They are the Rent-Seekers.

But yeah, equality of opportunity and stuff. Am I right, Right Wingers?

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

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From top: Dan Rooney at the Irish American Flag Football Classic at the American ambassador’s Residence in Phoenix Park, Dublin on July 4, 2013; Tony Groves

What we can learn from ‘colour blind’ Dan Rooney, former American Ambassador to Ireland and radical change agent, who died last week.

Tony Groves writes:

Dan Rooney grew up in the North Side of Pittsburgh. It was a more racially diverse part of the city and young Dan played baseball on integrated teams. He attended Duquense University, a pioneer school for the recruitment and playing of Black Athletes.

In Pittsburgh there’s a Newspaper produced by the African American Community called the Pittsburgh Courier. In the early 1960s they had a sportswriter called Bill Nunn, who was familiar with the Black athletes from mainly Black Colleges. Athletes and colleges who were, for whatever reason, overlooked by the National Football League (NFL) in that era.

When Dan Rooney became involved with the management of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1968 (he’d worked as a water boy from the age of 5) he hired Bill Nunn a team scout and made him part of the Steelers team responsible for drafting players from colleges into the NFL.

When in 1969 they drafted (on the advice of Nunn) Mean Joe Greene the Steelers’ identity as a defensive juggernaut was founded.

Later, and more famously, while Chairman of the NFL’s Diversity Committee he introduced the Rooney Rule. The rule stipulates that when seeking to fill Coaching Roles or Senior Football Operations Positions, NFL teams must include minority candidates in the interview pool.

This was a league whose were nearly 70% of players came from minority communities while the coaches were 94% white. Since the Rule’s 2003 implementation minority representation in coaching teams has risen from 6% to 22%. It was Dan Rooney’s colour blindness that helped change the face of the NFL.

Dan Rooney knew change was inevitable. But he wasn’t above giving it a kick in the arse if he felt it needed it. He wasn’t going to wait for the Old Boys Network to do away with itself. So he threw a match on the Old Rule Book.

Dan Rooney wouldn’t settle for our governments delaying tactics of Commissions of Inquiries or Reports from Retired Judges. He’d call out the malingers and wafflers and demand repercussions beyond tough questioning at public hearings.

Dan Rooney would see the fear mongering in questions like the one [Newstalk host] George Hook asked on Friday, “Are Muslims the enemy within?” He would explain to George that it is fear of the other that is the breathing ground of terror.

He’d perhaps recall how an other George, George W Bush, asked a similar question “Why do they hate us?” He might remember that the President had answered his own question with one of the biggest lies of his two terms in office: “They hate our freedoms.”

Nobody in their right minds and living in a repressive Islamic regime would hate freedom. They’d quite like some of it for themselves. They’d hate that if they travelled here from oppression that we’d tell them that they were unwelcome enemies.

I mean, how welcome would you feel if you read a recent David Quinn [Irish Independent] column, that asked How Much Integration is too Much?

Despite Trump, despite Brexit, despite Le Pen and despite our do nothing Dáil, time cannot be turned back. Globalisation is systemic and the toothpaste cannot be put back in the tube.

You can be like Dan Rooney who embraced and nurtured change. You can build bridges rather than walls and hope to leave the place better for your existence. Or you can sit in fear, achieve nothing and leave a legacy of regression.

Dan Rooney was a life-long Republican. I like to think that it was his exasperation with the fear of change within that party that made him endorse Democratic Candidate Barack Obama in 2009.

I’d like to think that the former Ambassador to Ireland helped us all see the positives in positive discrimination. I think we could all do with a little Rooney Rule in our lives. That’s a change not to be feared.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Rollingnews

 

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From top: Jonathan Sugarman; Tony Groves

Further to today’s appearance by banking whistleblower Jonathan Sugarman before the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform…

Tony Groves writes:

I’ve met Jonathan Sugarman, had pints with Jonathan Sugarman. I’ve laughed and even argued with Jonathan Sugarman.

Now today, much to chagrin of Official Ireland, everyone else has gotten to meet Jonathan Sugarman.

His story is one we all kind of knew, but never really paid too much heed. To focus on it would only lead to more issues. So we all engage in a collective sigh and utter “sure we are where we are”.

You see, Jonathan Sugarman exposes an open sore on the face of our country. It is widely known that the banks were engaged in systemic fraud that Bernie Madoff would be proud of.

The €7 Billion Anglo/Irish Life & Permanent fraud was not only known about by the “Regulator” and the Central Bank, it had the tacit approval of both.

The Liquidity Breaches were systemic. The Banks played roulette with balance sheets, knowing the Central Bank was asleep at the spinning wheel.

But rather than admit this, we swallowed the “We all partied” pill of austerity. We let our open sore fester for 8 years and decided to pin the entire thing on a “few bad apples” in a Banking Inquiry for Dummies.

A few bad apples! Really, are we meant to be placated, believe that everything is reformed (ignore that Ireland absorbed 42% of the total EU bank debt) and move on?

If we can get so irate over the (estimated) €3 billion wasted on the establishment of the lame duck utility Irish Water can we please get a little irate over a debt burden we inherited via fraudulent activity and (at best) incompetent regulation?

A few bad apples, really? When Jonathan Sugarman reported systemic breaches of Unicredits bank liquidity ratio in 2007 he was told “it’s complicated” in lieu of saying “we are aware of the breaches but we don’t care”.

When he resigned and the breaches of liquidity were shown to be endemic and systemic he was threatened with legal action, if he went public with his story.

Anyone who expressed an interest in helping Mr Sugarman was accused of not “wearing the green jersey”.

The country, in full financial meltdown, was told to focus on the solutions rather than on the cause. We were told “we all partied” and that only by accepting collective blame could we get out of the mess.

Mr Sugarman was denied the opportunity to explain why this happened and how it could be prevented. The hydra headed monster of financial and political bureaucracy was unleashed on a man who was proven right in the fullness of time. A few bad apples, indeed.

Do you remember (or have you heard the story of) the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where American Black Athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium, black gloved fist raised, during the 200mtr medal presentation? It is a tale of solidarity and defiance. The fist was a symbol of Black Power and (in Tommie Smiths own words) “a human rights salute”.

More often than not, lost in the telling of the tale is the white sprinter between the two black athletes. Peter Norman, an Australian runner, had finished second that day. It was in fact, Peter Norman who had suggested they wear one glove each, while he himself wore Human Rights badges.

Peter Norman returned to Australia an ostracised and maligned silver medallist. His stand meant the end of his Olympic career. He went on to qualify for the next Olympics no fewer than 13 times. He was not picked once. His show of solidarity with the Human Rights campaign was used to expunge his achievements and deny him any recognition of his talents.

He didn’t live to receive the apology issued by the Australian parliament in 2012. He died in 2006, Smith and Carlos pallbearers at his funeral. He wasn’t around to be “recognised for his efforts in furthering racial equality”. He simply did the right thing and paid for it.

Peter Norman did the right thing. Jonathan Sugarman did the right thing as well. But he remains ostracised and maligned. As Churchill was reported to have said; “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

We had the banking inquiry, we never invited Jonathan Sugarman along to speak. A “few bad apples” didn’t want you to hear what he had to say.

Today Jonathan Sugarman told Official Ireland that even after 10 years of exile he is unbroken.

He asked why the Laws weren’t used to jail people in breaches of banking licences in a country that has jailed people for television license breaches.

He was right in 2007, he was right today.

Jonathan, I’ll meet you for a pint later. Tonight’s on me. You earned it.

Tony Groves is a full-time financial consultant and part-time commentator. With over 18 years experience in the financial industry and a keen interest in politics, history and “being ornery”, he has published one book and writes regularly at Trickstersworld

Earlier: Watch Jonathan

I Have No Means. Thanks To Friends I Can Feed Myself


Update:

-1

Tonight.

Jonathan Sugarman (left) and Tony Groves outside The Gravediggers pub, Glasnevin, Dublin 9 after wetting their whistles.

Whistles.

Suit yourselves.

Pic via Tony