Author Archives: Tony Groves

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)

tonygroves

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.

gini

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

DanRooneytonygroves

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

 

sugarman
tonygroves

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

firxgerald:o'sullivantonygroves

From top: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Gardar Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan; Tony Groves

We are all guilty of it, myself included, the institutionalised thinking bug. Almost 20 years ago, a Senior Banker asked me: “What’s the best thing about working for The Bank?

My ears burning red with embarrassment, I blurted out something about the Institution and the comfort of been under the umbrella, or some other clumsy metaphor (yes, clumsy metaphors are my speciality) to which the Manager nodded and smiled.

After I’d finished waffling he gave me one of the best bits of advice I have ever got in my life.

Pushing a big silver and black stapler towards me he said:

“That’s bullshit Tony, and you know it. Do you see that stapler? Pretend that stapler is your sales targets. Well, we’ll have a meeting about them, set goals and conduct a SWOT analysis to help get those goals.

Next year the same stapler is targets on mortgages and we’ll have a brainstorming session, set stretch targets and get a Sales Guru to give us a course on achieving them.

Then the next year the stapler is a Pension Growth target. We’ll say stuff like ‘proactive’ and ‘local marketing planning’. At the end of the day, Tony, after all these years, it’s the same f@cking stapler.

We move it around, reset the goal and make up new buzzwords, but unless you’re happy pushing the same stapler around then you’re in the wrong game.”

I thought of this again last week when I heard the Garda Commissioner, who has spent €93,000 in the Communications Clinic using management speak/ Pronespeak. I thought of it again when I heard a Justice Minister, who has spent €11,000 in the Communications Clinic, using the words of deflection and blame-throwing.

Someone asked me ‘why doesn’t anybody yell out stop?’. Well in every Institution the staff take their lead from their bosses. Tone from the top and if the boss can imagine/fabricate stories and then simply say Mea Culpa and shimmy away unscathed, then why can’t the others say things like “I’m on a journey” and walk away similarly?

We must respect the Institutions of Government, Justice and an Garda. Never mind the reality that these Institutions are disrespecting the very people they were established to protect. I’d wager more people believe in the Tooth Fairy than in the Institutions of the State.

Every year, as part of my real job, I have to complete an Ethics course. Failure to do so would mean I’d lose my Financial Designations and thus my ability to work. No amount of money to the Communications Clinic could fix that.

But perhaps if I re-designated myself an Institute

There’s a line in a Paul Simon song, Gumboots; it goes, “Why don’t we get together and call ourselves an Institute?” It can’t really be that simple, can it? It can and it is. The Iona Institute, The Economic Social and Research Institute, The Hibernia Forum, The Irish Tax Institute are but a few users of the trick.

You get a few lads together who have similar worldviews, call yourself a Think Tank or an Institute and you get an invite to every television panel show.

Nobody introduces an ESRI reports by informing viewers that they are funded by the government, which they are. Nobody likes to suggest that he who pays the piper, calls the tune. Nope, we wouldn’t want to question the Institutions.

Someone recently sent me the old Simpsons sugar clip. You know the one, first you get the sugar, then you get power, then you get the women!

In Ireland, first you pick your stapler, then you call it an Institute, then you get the power, then you get Terry Prone to cover up that it’s just a f@cking stapler.

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

kellytonygroves

From top: Always angry’ Labour TD Alan Kelly; Tony Groves

Our corporate, political and media landscape is awash with meaningless phrases.

Tony Groves writes:

Everything, as they say, has its place. Everything has its part to play. Everything matters. Except when it doesn’t matter. Not really.

Recently the Daily Mail got in “trouble” for the front page sexism of its “Legs-it” headline. But it’s not that long ago that Matt Cooper was engaged in a little bit of casual sexism in the Daily Mail‘s Irish equivalent.

He derided Mary Lou McDonald for her dress sense and said she was “every bit as dangerous as Donald Trump”. I don’t recall an other Irish newspapers calling for apologies in the same way as the UK papers did for Teresa May, do you?

So sometimes things matter and sometimes they don’t. What the qualifying criteria are for such things, I don’t know.

There is a written language that we all can read, but none of us can really understand. That is to say, we understand the individual words, but they never actually add up to a meaningful sentence.

Our corporate, political and media landscape is awash with these phrases. I’ve bastardised some of my favourites below. They aren’t quiet oxymorons, but they are always taking us for morons.

Roots and branches are always reviewed. Failures are always systemic. Errors are always clerical. Exercises are always scoping. Pride is always resorted. And Noirin is always defiant.

Talks are always collapsing. Unions are always greedy. Management is always unreasonable. Efficiencies are always seeking. Brendan Ogle is always a Firebrand. Strikes are always wildcat. And Shane Ross is always missing.

Celebrity tweets are always hilarious. Twitter is always in meltdown. Trolls are always vicious. Chat is always snapping. Memes are always trending. And you always believe what you won’t believe happened next.

Rivals are always in the long grass. Knives are always out. Sources are always close to. Ministerial briefs are always getting handled. And Gerry is always denying he was ever a member of.

Plans are always strategic. Thinking is always blue sky. Jobs are always announced a few times. Corporation Tax Rates are always off the table. Brussels is always threatening fines. And Brian Hayes is always on your telly.

The centre must always be held. Politics must always be new. Polls must always be telling. The Left must always be Loony. The Right must always be Centrist. And Mick Martin is always the most popular leader, but not populist.

Crisis Talks are always crunching. Force is always excessive. Protesters are always like ISIS. Billions must always be wasted. Quango’s must always be re-branded. And Alan Kelly is always angry.

Immigration is always mass. Public Meetings are always Town halls. Citizens are always Assembling. Inquiries are always commissioned. And Paul Murphy is always the Posh Trot.

Speakers are always key. Doctors are always spinning. The recovery, like Enda, is always going. Bubbles are always bursting. Terry Prone is always paid. And Denis O’Brien is always REDACTED.

The middle is always squeezed. Vultures are always swooping. Confidence is always protected. NAMA is always defended. And Michael Noonan is always rebutting.

Events are always tragic. Tragedies are always avoidable Eulogies are always heartbreaking. Oliver Callan is always spot on.

Migrants are always economic. Refugees are always a significant risk. Power is always having truth spoken to it. Appeals are always falling on deaf ears. Europe is always our friend. And RTÉ is always biased according to both sides of the debate.

Articles are always being triggered. Borders are always porous. Market contagion is always spreading. Europe is always our enemy. The Union is always breaking. And no deal is always better than a bad deal?

There’s hundreds more of these phrases. They fill empty air with empty words. None of them speak of real Accountability or actual Implementation. They are cloaking phrases. Used to cloak the unaccountable and a lack of effort.

But it’s not all bad. At least there’s always Sean Moncrieff, weekdays between 2 and 4, always asking interesting questions…

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

housingtonygroves

From top, Houses under the hammer in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Tony Groves

We don’t have a deficit of land. We have a deficit of vision and we are walking into another bubble.

Tony Groves writes

Cicero warned, “The only thing we learn from history is that we never learn anything from history”.

Today we have a media surprised and faux-outraged that property prices are growing at Bubble levels. It’s as if this just happened today. It’s as if we need to wait to hear from Daft.ie in order to know that our dysfunctional property market is dysfunctional!

In late 2016, the Central Bank Briefing Report confirmed nearly 20% of Mortgages were not in line with their Rules. Not only were they not compliant, many of these were 100% Loan to Value Mortgages.

In November 2016, Pepper Ireland, announced they were entering the Irish Mortgage Market. The government hailed this as proof that their “strategy” of not having a mortgage strategy was working.

Pepper is a Subprime Lender. It will lend to people who cannot meet the (already 20% broken) Central Bank Rules. Pepper will charge a premium for the additional risk. Then, Pepper will repatriate over-inflated profits to its Vulture Fund Overlord.

In short, this added competition is not going to drive down the highest mortgage rates in the EU. It will actually lift our blended rate nationally. This will trigger the debt bundling that was the main driver of the Mid 2005 Mortgage Switcher Market.

People, under financial pressure, will bundle short term debt with their mortgage and think they are better off. Short term gain for long term pain. This is where we are going. Back to the Future…

In January the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017. Rating Middle-Income Housing Affordability, was published.

A riveting title, it’s sure to be a bestseller. Only it should be. It should be compulsory reading for our Politicians, our Planners and anyone who gives a damn about inequality.

What this body of real experts (as opposed to the experts who brought us Irish Water) do is work out how affordable is a house, based on dividing the average price by the average wage.

fig

The good news for Ireland is that we currently have zero Severely Unaffordable housing markets. Great news, right…

1

The bad news for Ireland is that we are fast on our way to getting there…

2

Look at the warning above. Dublin has gone from Moderately Unaffordable 3.3, to a Seriously Unaffordable 4.7, in less than 5 years.

As I type we are probably tipping over into the Severely Unaffordable zone of 5.1 or over. Think this is only a Dublin problem, think again. Galway and Cork are rapidly climbing the charts.

Without denigrating Cicero, I refuse to believe that we can’t learn anything from history. History teaches us that a malfunctioning Land market breeds inequality. Inequality means revolution.

Blame becomes the currency and it’s spent on creating division and fear. Elites, deriding the rise of Populism have only themselves to blame.

Ireland has a chance to avoid this “fear of the other” and blame-throwing culture. We had an Unaffordable Score of 6 at the top of the Celtic Tiger insanity. If we don’t act urgently, we will return to that level.

Remember these facts when you hear developers aren’t building because of low profits. How can profits be too low and Unaffordability so high?

Remember these facts when trying to reconcile the Governments Housing Plan has less ambition towards building Social Houses than we had in the darkest days of the Irish Economy.

These are facts; don’t listen to the alternative facts, post-truths or fake news. A lie is a lie is a lie. We don’t have a deficit of Land. We have a deficit of vision.

Dublin has over 60 hectares of vacant land. We don’t need incentives for developers; the only incentive for building we need is the FACT that we are rapidly headed back to Property Bubble Land. And Bubbles Burst.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. If we allow this tragedy to happen again, then the joke will be on all of us.

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

Irish House Price Report Q1 2017 (Daft)

Rollingnews

indotonygroves

From top: Today’s Independent; Tony Groves

On the worst reactions to the Bus Éireann strike escalation….

Tony Groves writes:

Bus Éireann is a loss making business. Bus Éireann also receives the lowest State Subvention of the 27 EU Member States. The losses are estimated to be in the region of €8,000,000. Every day the strike continues the situation becomes even more precarious.

RTÉ, the State broadcaster that is reporting on the strikes (perhaps unfairly?) from the point of view of the disadvantaged commuter, is also loss making. They recently floated a kite looking to double the licence fee. Their losses are estimated to be in the region of €20,000,000.

What RTÉ is doing is not hypocritical, it is maybe myopic and certainly lacking self-awareness.

Independent News & Media, the largest media group in the country, is controlled by it’s major shareholder, Billionaire, Tax Exile Denis O’Brien.

INM received debt write downs of €140,000,000. This write down was at least part done by several State owned banks. This write down came from taxpayers. A billionaire tax exile got a debt write down.

INM has no moral authority when it comes to campaigning for taxpayers.

The Bus Éireann reporting is an example of selective outrage and self-delusion. Certainly things aren’t great at the Transport provider. But people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

At least not without sweeping up their own mess first.

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: Lucky For Some