No Losses Imposed On Senior Bondholders of Zombie Banks

Oh God.  It’s just depressing, and I apologise most sincerely for banging away at this, but someone has to do it.

Professor Patrick Honohan, Governor of the Central Bank, is an excellent fellow.  A straight talker and a man fully in control of his brief, Honohan has pointed out that the socialisation of losses, as he put it, has been rightly criticised.

What does he mean?

Simple.  The Irish people were forced to pick up the tab for the failure of two badly-run businesses, Irish Nationwide and Anglo, at a cost of something like €34 billion.

That word, failure, is very important.  Public money was poured into AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent-TSB as well, but at least — in the long term — those companies had the potential to earn profits and pay us back.

Nationwide and Anglo were different, in the sense that they were dead.  They were never going to make a single penny in profit ever again, and had no chance of reviving. Therefore, the money  handed over on our behalf was not a bailout of those banks.  It was, by definition, a bailout of investors who had made a very bad business call.  Those investors were ready to accept their losses and walk away, but somehow, through the intervention of the ECB and the pusillanimous, craven attitude of the two Brians, instead they won the banking Lotto and treated the bailout as manna from Heaven.  It had already been written off as a loss, and here was the Irish government giving them the biggest profit of their lives.  Result!

In recent times, we’re starting to get to the bottom of the whole stinking mess that characterised the 2008 bank guarantee.  We saw some correspondence between Trichet and Lenihan, showing how much pressure the ECB put on the two buffoons in charge of our government, and in time, more will emerge.  Already, we can see that the ECB, since Trichet has gone, is willing to contemplate the unthinkable, buying up government bonds of those countries that apply for a bailout programme.  And you know, a bailout is not the worst thing that ever happened.  After all, a programme is simply a scheduled series of loans at rates we’d never get on the open market.

It’s true that the interest rates initially were punitive, but they’ve come down, and there is a strong case for rebates on that money.  Furthermore, it’s looking more and more like Ireland will be in a strong position to demand relief on the Anglo promissory notes, and I think that eventually some sort of fudge will be devised.  Perhaps some sort of long-term loan whose value will be rendered minuscule over a century due to inflation, or some other device.  After all, it seems to be accepted now throughout the Eurozone that we had inordinate burdens placed on us, including the requirement that this tiny country should single-handedly save the common currency.

It all gets so confusing, doesn’t it?  Promissory notes, bailouts, troikas, central banks.  You want to run around with your hands over your ears screaming Lalalalalala!!!  The good Prof Lucey did his best to explain it here, but I suspect people are still utterly baffled, as I am myself.

As far as I can work it out, the whole thing comes down to this.

First, the government is spending too much.  It hands out more than it takes in, and the difference every year is about €15 billion.  That can’t go on and we have to try and balance the books.

Second, some of the banks are nearly dead, but still have a pulse.  If the government puts money into them, we hope they’ll eventually get better and pay back what they were lent.  This is the bank bailout.

Third, two banks, Anglo and Nationwide, never had a hope of surviving.  They were stone dead but the government gave them money anyway.  None of this money will ever come back to us, none of it benefited the Irish people, but you and I, and our great-grandchildren,  will spend the rest of our lives paying it off.


Well, that’s the €34 billion question, and that’s the question we’ll be expecting the ECB to answer in coming months.  Some people suggest that the collapse of Anglo and Nationwide would have led to an unravelling of the entire European banking system with catastrophic results, so why was Ireland expected to save the Euro on its own?  Was it not a common threat?  I hope the government has some dirt to dish on the ECB, and on Trichet in particular.

Honohan says the ECB would never have approved burden -sharing on senior bondholders, regardless of whether a guarantee existed or not, and that in itself raises very difficult questions.  Does it mean that a bank is never a private company in Europe?  Are governments always responsible for the actions of their management?  And if so, why are private individuals accorded such power?

If banks are not private companies, if their losses can be imposed on European taxpayers, then why are they not at all times subjected to the most minute scrutiny imaginable? That certainly didn’t happen here, or in Britain, or anywhere else for that matter.

Does it happen now?  Could the whole disaster erupt all over again?

I think so.  Lessons learned: zero


The Independent: Plagiarism or Coincidence? You Decide

Mulley has an interesting post over here.

The guys at Value Ireland were trawling through the Internet, as one does, when they noticed an incredible coincidence.

What? What was the coincidence?

Well, back in 2004, they wrote a piece about getting value when buying home insurance. Then they came across a piece from the Independent in 2007. Now, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed the coincidences, but to make it easier, I’ve put the quotes side by side for you. Judge for yourself.

Value Ireland (2004) (2007)
If you are able, it is an idea to pay your full insurance premium in one lump sum rather than through monthly repayments. This can save you money as some companies may charge you a rate of interest … If you are able, it is an idea to pay your full insurance premium in one lump sum rather than through monthly repayments. This can save you money as some companies may charge you a rate of interest.

Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t it just amazing that Value Ireland could write these words in 2004, and by an astounding psychic fluke, the Independent journalist just happened to write exactly the same thing three years later?

But wait! What’s this?

Value Ireland (2004) (2007)
Some companies provide discounts if you hold more than one insurance policy with them. So if you already have car or life insurance with a single company, ask for a quote for your home insurance, and ask if they can offer you any discount … … some companies provide discounts if you hold more than one insurance policy with them. So if you already have car or life insurance with a single company, ask for a quote for your home insurance, and ask if they can offer you any discount.

Surely not! This is astonishing.

And another:

Value Ireland (2004) (2007)
Always keep an eye out for special offers that may be offered at various times by different insurance companies. For example, look out for money back guarantees … This can assure you that you’re not being stung. Always keep an eye out for special offers that may be offered at various times by different insurance companies. For example, look out for money-back guarantees. This can assure you that you’re not being stung.

Oh for God’s sake, the mind is boggling. Can you believe there’s more?

Value Ireland (2004) (2007)
You could bring down your premium costs by volunteering to pay more of an excess towards the cost of each claim. Only do this if you can afford to do so however. You could bring down your premium costs by volunteering to pay more of an excess towards the cost of each claim. Only do this if you can afford to do so, however.

Isn’t that just an astounding coincidence? What are we to conclude?

You could say that the Independent stole the copyright on this material, or you could decide it’s all a terrible mistake. Now, personally I don’t know if the Independent stole copyright material from a blogger. In fact, I’d say Value Ireland somehow guessed what the Indo was going to write three years in the future, wouldn’t you?

After all, this is the newspaper that thinks bloggers are of no value, so it couldn’t be possible that they stole material from a blogger, now could it?

And then, just when you don’t know what to think, here comes that damned plagiarist, Derfen making light of the whole thing, damn him!

I wonder if the other Irish papers think this is plagiarism?

Let’s ask them.

What do you reckon, guys? Is this plagiarism by the Independent, or did Value Ireland somehow see into the future?


The plot (as they say) thickens.

In the comments, we have Value Ireland revealing that they informed the Independent of the cut-and-paste operation, and in fairness to the Indo they took the article down.


What did this magnificent organ do next?

They promptly republished it, under a new title. Now there’s ethics for you.

The we had Jonathan Bailey of Plagiarism Today, commenting as follows:

That has to be the most unprofessional thing I’ve heard of. Any reputation the Independent had in my mind (which really wasn’t that much to start with) is gone now.

I might have to look into this deeper.


Value Ireland came back with this:

I wrote to the journalist in question requesting credit for this, and any other work that was used from Value Ireland. I have no problems with anyone using anything from the site, as long as reference and credit is provided.

Obviously, there was no response from said journalist and in the course of writing my original post last week discovered that the original article had been taken down, and republished under a different file name.

So there you have it. These are the standards we’ve come to expect from the Irish Beano Independent.

Previously:The Ace Internet Marketing scandal

Related:Plagiarism Today


Green Ink

That Friday Feeling


Irish Election Count

You can follow the count here

Even this early in the day, it looks as though the people have voted for another four years of being robbed blind and taken for fools.  Bless them.

Favourites Politics

Irish Medical Consultants

There’s an almighty row going on at the moment about the contracts being offered to new hospital consultants.

An incredible uproar.

And the reason? Well, the government is going to hire more consultants, but they’ll have to work exclusively in the public health service. They won’t be able to have private patients under the new contract but instead will have to devote their full attention to public work.

This won’t affect the conditions of employment enjoyed by the present consultants, nor will it reduce their income in any way, but they’re not a bit happy. They don’t want their money-making system changed, and they’re not used to being questioned.   You see, Irish consultants have a great set-up, whereby they get a salary from the government and can also treat private patients in public hospitals, using theatre facilities, laboratories and hospital beds provided by the taxpayer. Not to mention all the nurses and junior doctors, also paid for by the taxpayer. On top of all that, many of them behave like arrogant strutting demi-gods, as we saw for instance in the Neary scandal.

They like it that way, and who could blame them?

I had a look around and, as far as I can establish, these are the only group of public-service workers entitled to this kind of working arrangement. As far as I’ve been able to find out, all other professional groups within the civil service and in local councils are barred from doing private work. Lawyers, engineers, veterinarians, architects and a host of others are all explicitly barred from working privately in their own profession.

When you walk into an Irish hospital, you can choose to be a private patient or a public one, and it is a festering scandal in this country that, if you walk into a publicly-funded hospital and choose to go private, you will get faster treatment in the hospital and better attention from the consultant, because you can pay. This is true and it’s a disgrace.

Did you know that in Ireland, by law, there’s a universal entitlement to free healthcare, regardless of whether you have private health insurance or not? And yet, everybody entering an Irish hospital is asked if they have insurance, and if the answer is yes, they’re automatically routed into the private channel.

The Comptroller and Auditor General recently published a report into all of this. He concluded that, even though hospital consultants have, by agreement with the government, a right to use up to 20% of hospital beds for their private patients, they routinely take more. Likewise, they refuse to account for their hours of work though – depending on their category – they receive between €140,000 and €180,000 a year to attend work.   In addition, for their private work, they get all the back-up services available at the hospital, paid for by you and me, including staff to work for them.

Now, I know I made this comparison before, but just let me say it again. It’s the very same as if you walked into your local Council, and you said to the planner: I want to build a house.

The planner looks back at you and says, OK, but you’ll have to wait two years. I’m busy.

So you say, But I can pay!

And the planner takes a step backwards. Why didn’t you say so? Come into my Council office here and I’ll get a Council technician to draw up the plans for you. We’ll print them out on the Council’s printer and you’ll have permission tomorrow morning.

Seriously. Isn’t it exactly the same? And yet, any planner attempting such behaviour would be arrested.

There was an article in the Irish Times last Friday that I thought was very revealing of the sort of elitist condescending mindset at work among some of the medical profession in this country. An outraged sense of entitlement not unlike that of your average welfare scammer.

It was written by a guy called Ronan Cahill, described as a senior specialist registrar at Cork University Hospital.  He’s close to becoming a consultant himself, and no doubt he received all this training from my taxes and yours, but he’s not the slightest bit happy that the gravy train is about to come off the tracks. He thinks that the level of pay on offer won’t attract people to take up consultant posts in this country. Incidentally, the salary is in the order of €200,000 a year, and I heard one English-based consultant on the radio during the week saying it was better than the British rates, and better than many self-employed consultants in the USA could make.

But the real giveaway, I thought, was a nasty little comment embedded in the article where he remarked that the new contracts would prove attractive to clock-punching, detached, disengaged automatons whose ambition is levelled at achieving a reasonable monthly salary.

I had to read it twice to be sure I was right.

clock-punching, detached, disengaged automatons

Hold on. That’s me he’s talking about, isn’t it? And you. And nurses. And junior doctors. And technicians. And radiographers. And physiotherapists. And everyone else inside or outside the health service who holds down a paying job. The very people, in other words, whose taxes paid for Ronan’s training. This is a guy who regards just about the entire world with contempt and I have no doubt he’s a good example of his breed. No wonder he’s peeved: this man is clearly consultant material, in his condescending attitude if nothing else.

Ronan makes the point that exceptionally innovative, educated people – such as himself – won’t train to be consultants any more because the money won’t be good enough. All along, throughout his training, he expected to get the State salary and also have his own private income, and to be fair to him, you can see his point. There is a lot more money in the private work. He’s right.

Aha! I have it!!

Why doesn’t Ronan forget about the public work? Why doesn’t he just go off and work in a private clinic where the rewards are so much greater? That will solve his problem.

Oh! No, sorry, I was wrong. It won’t.

You see, then there would be no €200k from the State. No free beds. No free nurses. No free theatres. No free technicians. No free pathology. But worst of all, there would be nobody at the front desk to tell 20% of publicly-entitled patients that they have to go privately and pay Ronan a big pile of money. That’s what’s pissing him off, the miserable, grasping little prick.
And they accused the nurses of greed?


related article from The Bitter Pill


Happy Christmas Scunthorpe United

Now, fair play to the Scunts for making a liar out of me. Last week I was taking the piss out of them for their disgraceful defeat at the hands of Blackpool but then, on Friday, they travelled to London and beat Millwall 1-0 with a late goal from Torpey. Helped by some unlikely results the following day, the Scunts are back in second place and only two points behind the league leaders, Notts Forest.

Amazing. Well done, Scunts!

It isn’t beyond human imagination that they could top the table on the 26th. If they beat Chesterfield, and if Forest just draw with Port Vale, the Scunts go to the top of the table on goals difference. Go, Port Vale!!

kick it on