Friday, October 29, 2010

Take That tix — "Inc booking fee" does not mean what it seems

MCD says tickets to Take That are €70.70 including booking fee. What does that mean?

One their web site MCD says the tickets are available at that price through the following outlets:
  • From 100 Ticketmaster Outlets Nationwide
  • By Telephone (24 Hour):
  • ROI - 0818 719 300, Northern Ireland - 0844 277 44 55
  • Book On Line:

Well, to me that means when you buy two tickets – regardless of how – you should pay €141.40. Yet someone I know was charged €154.10 for tickets bought through

Shouldn't part of their radio ads include this?
"When we say 'including booking fee' that does NOT mean that the tickets will actually cost what we claim. Additional charges may still apply."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Irish Times: Obama's unpopular — blame the American people

I can understand a little how Lara Marlowe feels, but I'm too filled with hope to be worried that she's unhappy. Her idol has feet of clay, but she's having trouble accepting this.

She blames "Republican obstructionism in Congress" for President Obama's problems, but this ignores the fact that Obama had (a) large Democratic majorities in both houses and (b) a strong wind behind him when he took office. His problems have NOTHING to do with "Republican obstructionism in Congress" and everything to do with his failure to properly understand what it was that got him elected: (a) anger at the banks and (b) anger at government for failing to regulate.

Obama thought his election was a 1932 moment, a chance to greatly expand the size of government. However, that's not what the voters thought. They thought they were voting for better management, control over those things that were let run wild during the the Bush years. His stimulus plan was a failure and his health care bill was unpopular before it passed and has only become more unpopular since then.

Next Tuesday the Republicans will probably have control of the House and a larger minority in the Senate. If the President wants to get re-elected, he'll have to learn how to actually be bi-partisan rather than merely talking about it.

More than that, he'll have to show a willingness to accept that he has almost no gut-feel for what makes Americans tick. This is what President Clinton had and it served him well. Obama doesn't have it, which means he has to find someone who does and start listening.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mets fans will go on suffering

Two days ago all seemed perfect with the world. On the morning of the 20th Met fans woke up to the possibility that the baseball gods had finally stopped punishing us after 4 long years. We've endured great suffering for what? We still don't know.

It all started on October 19, 2006 when Yadier ******* Molina hit that home run to turn our dream season into a nightmare. That long winter was followed by two heart-breaking years where our hopes were dashed on the last day of the long season and then last year, which was a disaster from start to finish. The Mets were just plain awful and to top it off, we had to watch the hated Yankees beat the hated Phillies in the World Series.

This year was hardly looking much better until Tuesday night. By the end of the action on Tuesday the Yankees were on the brink of elimination and the Phillies were looking very beatable in their series with San Francisco.

That was only two days ago. Now we look to the future with dread. Both the Yankees and Phillies avoided elimination and, well, let's face it they'll probably go on to win the two in a row they each need. The baseball gods were only playing with us. We are doomed to suffer forever {or at least until April when the new season begins}.

CIT lecturer assumes a lot in wealth tax argument

Cork Institute of Technology lecturer Tom O'Connor says that the "wealthy" have €121bn, which should be taxed. He seems unperturbed by the fact that these people have presumably paid taxes on all of their income while they accumulated this wealth and figures taxing them twice is no big deal.

I think that would be immoral, but I don't want to argue the wealth tax. No, I'm really bothered by the assumptions O'Connor used to arrive at this €121bn figure.

He uses a 2006 Bank of Ireland Private Banking report as the basis for his figures. He then updates the figures in that report using these assumptions.
  1. BoI breaks down the wealthy into three cohorts: those whose net worth is greater than €30m, those whose net worth is between €5m and €30m, and those who fall between €1m and €5m. O'Connor assumes that each group will have an average wealth near the midpoint in the range. {I believe that it would skew strongly towards the low end each time.}

  2. O'Connor assumes that the property holdings of the wealthy have fallen in value in line with the national average. {I suspect that quite a few of those wealthy people held land that - or owned shares in companies that held the land - that was valued on its development potential and that they didn't own large tracts of built up neighborhoods or farm land.}

  3. The wealthy had perfectly diversified share portfolios across the FTSE 100. {He may be right about this, but it's also possible that Ireland's wealthy in 2006 held a disproportionate number of shares in Ireland's banks and property companies, whose prices have since collapsed.}

  4. The bonds in their portfolio were all European government bonds. {I really don't understand this one. Are we really supposed to believe those were the only bonds these people bought? But, regardless, I could probably live with this one.}

  5. Bank of Ireland Private Banking made this information public out of the goodness of their hearts and didn't produce a report that would emphasize the importance of their function to the bank. 
O'Connor wants a 1% wealth tax, which is fine. I don't agree with him, but he says some EU states already have one and others are planning to introduce it. However, if we're going to debate the issue we need a better starting place for what such a tax might bring in.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ireland's Greatest — joke night

I'm giving serious consideration to watching Ireland's Greatest tonight to see if David McWilliams can make any sort of case that Mary Robinson even belongs in this list. I'm more than dubious.

That Daniel O'Connell didn't make the list is a travesty.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good thing we have loads of money for wasteful road spending

One of the worst aspects of the sort of boom times we're living in is the obvious waste of money among some public bodies. For example, a (completely unnecessary) virtually brand new roundabout in Dalkey, Co. Dublin (Dun Laoghaire County Council area) has been torn up and replaced. The original roundabout was comprised of red bricks, but for some reason that was replaced with a black tar-macadam roundabout this week. Good thing money's plentiful.

Along the same stretch of road the same authority (I assume) installed new red brick speed ramps about 20 feet in front of a new stop sign. Maybe the junction merited a stop sign, I can't say, but what's the point of putting in speed ramps just in front of a stop sign. You have to slow down anyway.

I suppose the only saving grace is that money's plentiful and there's no reason to worry too much about how it's spent.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guinness targeting US market

Guinness is about to undertake a big push for the American market, according to the Wall St Journal. Guinness Black is part of this push. Maybe some people like that, but not me. The four bottles I bought and drank will be the only four bottles of Guinness Black I'll ever buy (will drink it if I get it free!).

The Journal also says that Guinness is gong to start offering its "Extra Stout" product, which "hasn't been sold in the U.S. since before Prohibition." Hmm. Maybe, but I have a clear memory of seeing Guinness Extra Stout in the delis in the north Bronx when I was in college there in the 1980s. And, no, it wasn't only available to those who knew the secret knock that opened the door to the illicit beers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

INBS going after the mortgage market with gusto

Jon Ihle in Sunday Tribune says Irish Nationwide Building Society is going all out to increase its share of the mortgage market for 2011. In 2010 INBS wrote €20m in mortgages, but hopes to get that figure up to €160m in 2011 and €325m in 2012.

That's the best news I've seen in weeks. That's the kind of cheery, optimistic news we've all been looking for. We don't have enough financial institutions willing to do whatever it takes to write new mortgage business. Maybe those 100% mortgages will seem so fuddy-duddy conservative, so 'yesterday' when INBS starts offering 140% mortgages next year. With any luck they'll get that up to 175% by 2012.

This is insanity. Rather than running wild with their bailout money, INBS should be wound up. It's bust, bankrupt, kaput. Time to shut say to goodnight to INBS.

Non-stop sports this weekend

I'm pretty sure no one in the family is talking to me. They were on Friday, I know that for sure because we all watched the Ireland match together, but I haven't had much contact with anyone since then. I doubt anyone's angry, probably just forgot I was here.

Yup, since the soccer game ended on Friday I've watched or listened to 5 full baseball games - that's at least 15 hours of baseball in just over two days. I'm now on my 6th game - San Francisco at Atlanta.

I also spliced in healthy doses of Notre Dame's game with Pitt last night (on Eurosport 2, with worst ever in-studio, rather than at-game, commentary for any sporting event anywhere). What a weekend for sports watching. I had to squeeze in a couple of meals and cutting the grass, but it's been great. I love this time of year.

Friday, October 08, 2010

James Ellroy's book told me all I needed to know about him

I was pleased yesterday to learn that my impression of the author of The Cold Six Thousand was right on the money. I heard some of the Matt Cooper's interview with James Ellroy yesterday and the guy is as big a jerk as I would have expected.

I had never heard of Ellroy when I was given this book, but I thought it was awful. I have no idea if Ellroy is considered good or bad, but I thought this is a book by a guy who has spent his life trying to be cool. Everything about the book - the language, tone, even his sentence structure (or lack of it) - shouted to me, "You gotta live on the edge, man."

Yesterday, he walked out on Cooper when Cooper started asking questions about things Ellroy had written in his autobiography. Ellroy got annoyed when Cooper asked him about some of the racier, edgier details in the book. Then he got all high and mighty and walked out. Totally full of himself, his greatness, his relevance and an ignoramus too. Just as I'd imagined.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Is Ganley planning on more than this one cup of 'tea'?

Declan Ganley back from the dead? He's been silent for the year or so since Lisbon passed on its second attempt. However, he's been making noise on Twitter the past few days and today he has a column at

His political party went down in flames during the European elections and, well, Lisbon passed pretty easily at the second asking. So Ganley's pretty much a done deal, right?

I dunno.

I read his column and it's full of good ideas - if this were Sep 2008. It's pretty light on where to from here, but if this is just a first salvo then it's a good one. It puts him back on the scene, but not overly committed.

From the column I get the feeling Ganley would like to be the face of an Irish version of the Tea Party movement, but I don't know that he has the appeal to really get people to rally to him. I also don't think Irish people have that 'get government out of the way' attitude that drives the Tea Party.

I also suspect that even if he achieved some success he would find it nearly impossible to renege on all those government commitments to the Anglo bondholders. It's a scary, but popular idea, one that the Irish people would love to see, but one that we've been told would be disastrous.

Ganley probably has the credibility to get the people to believe we could burn the bondholders, that the price of doing so will be less than not doing so and that the EU & ECB will not overreact to such a move. Is he right? There are quite a few economists on his side, but the powers ranged against him are strong. Stronger.

Any effort at building a mass movement against bailing out the banks' bondholders and against higher taxes and more regulations will require tremendous leadership, charismatic leadership. Does Ganley have such ambitions? We'll just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Matthew Elderfield says don't burn senior bondholders (Anglo) because of "current difficult funding position for both the Irish government and the banking system." Well, okay, but if we burned them entirely we would undoubtedly have trouble raising money in the bond market, but at the same time we'd owe a helluva lot less. No?

Unmarried fathers would be better off wed

"European family law expert Geoffrey Shannon" says we need new legislation because a court ruling yesterday means "unmarried fathers, even where heavily involved with their children, have to go to court to claim their rights of custody." Shannon was commenting a case decided by the European Court of Justice where an unmarried father was deemed to have no right to demand that his children be returned from England, where their mother had taken them. From the Irish Times report it sounds like the mother left for England before court proceedings here could progress.

I feel bad for the father, Mr McB, but I'm at a loss as to what legislation Mr. Shannon wants. The state already provides for two people to declare that they are committed to one another and that they will share the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. It's called marriage.

Mr. McB would have been better off if had married the mother, Ms E. That's obvious now, but it should have been obvious from day 1 of their relationship. That so many unmarried fathers find themselves in such situations would, you would imagine, eventually convince unmarried fathers and, preferably, unmarried men in serious relationships, to MARRY.

This is what marriage is for. Everything else that our Bridezillas and Weddings By Franc society has promoted is unnecessary. Even religion does not have to feature if the couple would prefer. A simply state ceremony will put the relationship on a solid legal foundation. I'm at a loss to understand why so many people have opted out of marriage and why we as a society deem this situation to be of little consequence.

Friday, October 01, 2010

What is "light touch regulation?"

"Light touch regulation" is an expression I've heard a lot lately with regards to the banks disaster. My problem is that I can't quite make out if someone using this expression refers to the regulations being insufficient or whether they were simply lightly enforced.

Any enlightenment welcome.