The Boy Who Shouldn’t Be King

A long time ago, in a village far, far away a boy was creating havoc. He was lashing out at the villagers, calling them All Ireland Champion Whingers and telling fantastical tales of adventures that never happened. The villagers, fed up of the Boy Who Cried 2 Pints, sent the lad to bed with no supper.

But the boy was not to be stopped. Deciding to run away, he put on his fathers suit and climbed aboard a small boat to the mysterious island known as Dáiland. As well as people similar to those in the village the island of Dáiland was filled with malicious Beasts known as Politician’s. The boy, trying to find his place, spent years ducking and dodging them.

Slowly, he grew more confident. He recalled the tale of the Man With 2 Pints and how he’d tricked some of the villagers. So he began to tell even taller tales. Extravagant stories and preposterous claims were told to the Beasts over and over. He spoke to them of a place where everything was wonderful that he called Retrospective Recapitalisation Land.

He spun fables of his feats of daring-do; including one about how he faced down the Evil Hordes looking to carry away all the ATM’s in Dáiland. The boy convinced the Politicians to make him their king with promises of things he called Allowances and Unvouched Expenses.

As king, the boy ordered the Politician’s do to all sorts of wild and crazy things. He told them the more they break things the better the Recovery will be. The Political Beasts, so excited by the freedom of not having to tell the truth anymore, went stomping all over the island. Kicking Austerity Dust into the faces of the inhabitants and telling them it’s part of Keeping the Recovery Going.

The people, once they’d spat the Austerity Dust out of their mouths, weren’t pleased. They set about organising and challenging the Political Beasts. The Beasts, worried that their party might be cut short, turned on the boy king. But he was ready for them, he knew the best way to cover up a lie was to tell an even bigger lie.

So the boy king told the Beasts that he was following orders from a higher power, which he called “The Troika”. He said he’d gladly step aside and let one of the Beasts take over, but he warned them that The Troika eat Beasts for breakfast! Needless to say, the Beasts scurried back all over Dáiland and told the inhabitants of The Troika and how they’d better not make anymore trouble, for all their sake’s.

The boy king, so happy that he’s lies had gone unchallenged went back to partying. He even came up with a way to handle the occasional misstep. Whenever a Beast or an Islander would step out of line, the boy king would simply have them locked up in an Inquiry. And yet…

And yet the boy king felt incomplete. No amount of records set, achievements or accomplishments could fill the hollow in his heart. The boy king, if he had the ability to tell the truth, would have admitted that he would never truly be happy in the knowledge that a village far, far away is still missing its idiot.

 

Tony Groves March 2017

Any similarities to people living or dead are purely coincidental…

A War of Words

When the Irish Times published a glossary of Alt-Right terms my echo chamber lost its mind. When I spewed my badly punctuated thoughts on NAMA on these pages I was grammatically held bang to rights. Words, even in this text speak era, still hold value. Words still have power and given the Alt-Right got its own glossary, I thought I’d try my hand at doing a Chumocracy Glossary. I should probably start with Chumocracy.

Chumocracy: a system of governance run by and for the Arms of the State and their Chums. I’d love to say I crated this phrase, but I stole it from someone referring to the Tory Toff Infighting around the time of the Brexit campaign. Eamon Dunphy refers to it as Official Ireland, but I think Chumocracy has a more onomatopoeic flow.

Accountability: a situation where a Chumocracy member is forced to issue a statement of deep regret, or a statement refuting findings against them. Once complete the contrite individual can usually return to their snout to the trough or pull the chord on a golden parachute pension.

Pronespeak: a series of phrases that are seemingly benign, but are actually malignant tumours on the body politic .For example: “not aware of, or privy to” and the old chestnut “let me just be clear”. These phrases rarely mean what they say and quite often they mean the exact opposite.

Populism: a smear used by Chumocracy members to describe anybody outside their groupthink bubble. Frequently thrown at an individual who has the temerity to question the morality of putting free(rigged) market ideology ahead of social crises.

Complex Issue: a term used to explain away the fact that those in power have failed to do anything about a particular issue right up until six hours before it becomes an RTE Prime Time Special. Usually the nodding heads, not wanting to be seen to be stupid, nod along and accept this explanation. Sure haven’t the government agreed to set up a…

Commission of Inquiry: a method of placating public outcry against injustices that are (more often than not) within the remit of the State to address, but might result in embarrassment for a Chumocracy member; see Accountability.

Stability: the state of being out of your depth and screwing up at your job, while simultaneously claiming that you are a safe pair of hands. For example Alan Kelly and Simon Coveney brought Stability to homelessness crisis.

Political Correspondent: a name used for many Journalist’s who allow Politicians make false or misleading claims (like “I refute” and “I was unaware of”) and often use their own type of Pronespeak, like “a source close to X said” or “a senior party member told me”, thus removing Accountability (see above).

Advice of the Attorney General: a phrase which gives the user a form of diplomatic immunity against charges of idiocy; particularly useful when trying to turn a simple matter into a Complex Issue.

Speaking Truth to Power: a Leadership Skill of standing up to the EU Commission when defending the Apple Tax decision, while prostrating oneself in front of the EU Commission when talking about Irish Water.

Independent News & Media: see Pronespeak.

Communicorp: see above.

Mea Culpa: it means No Worries For The Rest Of Your Days.

Tony Groves March 2017 Image result for lies cartoon

 

 

Brexit Wounds

I might be in the minority here, but I’m not sure this Brexit thing is going to be all that bad for Ireland. You only have to listen to “The New Iron Lady”, Theresa May’s speech to hear the opportunities for us.

Even casual observers can see a border wall (just on the edge of the horizon) as a boon for struggling developers. If Irish planning efficiency has taught us anything, it’s that we can get at least fifteen construction tenders, twenty obscenely expensive architectural designs and a decade or more out of the planning process?

We could have petrol stations running kids 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?

Theresa May has laid out her plan, which is a plan to look at all available plans. She wants to explore all the options available while probably 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, who’s entire expertise is in delivering plans on the best way to hold a press conference, where plans are 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 are very experienced in looking the other way while consumers are gouged. Aren’t we still paying twice the European average in our Mortgage Rates? I hardly think the Big British Banks need fear any constraints on rampant profiteering from Ireland Inc. IDA Ireland could use 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, Dublin 9 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.

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 January 2017

Image result for brexit ireland cartoon

The Complete Banker

Am I the only one still getting used to the clocks going back? I mean, really, that extra hour in bed has knocked me back a lot more than sixty minutes.

“How far back?” you ask.

Over a decade, I reckon.

I remember when, in 2005, I, yes me, was running a bank branch that trial-launched the first 100% mortgage into the Irish market. In those heady days, I was defending these loans as financially responsible due to “enhanced underwriting, stronger credit criteria and robust loan stress testing”. We offered these loans to “help people who meet strict criteria”. Verbal gymnastics and well-meaning soundbites that helped to hide the real motivation; greed.

Imagine my confusion when I read this mornings Central Bank Briefing that Irish Lenders are again offering 100% Mortgages! This little nugget was revealed in the report that also told how nearly 20% of total new mortgages are not inline with the Central Banks Mortgage Lending Rules.

Not only are the CBI Rules selectively applied, but some of these are now getting 100% finance. I’m forever blowing bubbles…

Perhaps this shocking blast from the past could be rationalised and explained if it was only  a Mid 2005 coincidence. But it’s not. No, it’s not even the most shocking development of the day.

No, that privilege belongs to Pepper Ireland, who this morning have announced they are entering the Irish Mortgage Market. The free market brigade will tell you that this is great. The government will say that this is proof that their “strategy” of not having a mortgage strategy is working. It’s none of these things.

Pepper is a Subprime Lender. It will lend to people who cannot meet the (20% broken) Central Bank Rules. Pepper will charge a premium for the additional risk. Then, Pepper will repatriate it’s over-inflated profits to it’s 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…

Neil Hannon wrote it better than I ever could:

“Well that’s just me, the Complete Banker
In a black Bentley, Margaret Thatcher, right here next to me
Oh, how I hanker for the good old days
When I was free and a complete banker
I’m a conscience free, malignant cancer on society
And one day you’ll let your guard down
And I’ll come ’round again”

Tony Groves November 2016

Image result for evil inc formerly lehman brothers

 

Outing Innovation

“There’s no ‘I’ in team”, says the football manager.

“No, but there is 1 in Champion” comes the players retort.

If you were to play out the same verbal spat in the halls of the European Unions Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (CCCBT) offices, I’d imagine would go:

“There’s no ‘I’ in Team”

“No, but there’s 2 in Innovation!”

Life (my life) is all about Me. How I got like this (was I always like this?) and what makes Me so selfish is unimportant. It takes a lot of effort to maintain this Shrine to Me by Me. I run and go to the gym to maintain my body. I get grouchy if my sleep is impinged upon, I need it to maintain my (self-declared) fantastic wit. I maintain this blog, that masquerades as thought provoking, but is at its core is just an ode to Me.

I can take some comfort in knowing most of you are like Me. Statistically, I’m in among a majority of Me’s. Most of us are maintainers. We are all working to maintain ourselves, our professions, our way of doing things.

We aren’t all innovators. So, if most of us are in maintenance, then why is the EU’s new CCCBT give a special deal to Innovation?

I don’t know is the real answer, but it’s fun to speculate. Innovation is sexy, no one wants to be the second to do anything, everyone wants to create the newest and bestest most innovationy-ist thingy.

Think about the plethora of charities and foundations that spring up like daffodils. Everyone of them dedicated to a cause that there is already a charity set up for. Everybody wants to be the catalyst for change, they have a dream that their new institution is the one to solve the problem.

Without sounding disrespectful of well-intentioned philanthropic people*, not everyone can be the hammer that cracks the nut. Most of us need to be part of the handle, without which the head cannot swing. We end up with too many charities, competing for too little money and the lack of consolidation leads to less progress in tackling the issue.

Maintenance is less glamorous than innovation. But consolidation and maintenance are critical and more often than not, more important than innovation. It’s not only the charitable sector that suffers from Innovation Addiction. Nope, these days the addicts are running the EU asylum.

Let’s go back to the CCCBT

One of the key proposals of the new Tax Reforms is based on Innovation. What the EU are saying is that start ups (which is good) AND Large Corporations (which is bad) who “support innovation” will be rewarded “through tax incentives for Research and Development (R&D) activities which are linked to real economic activity.” A tax break if you build a (Irish) Knowledge Box, or some other fancy Research and Development container.

These Large Established Corporations are defined as companies who earn more than €750m per year. Not the type of young dynamic company that needs a break. But the start ups are eligible as well, so we should automatically welcome this brave new innovation, right? Wrong…

These tax breaks are misdirected. The established high-tech innovation sector is not a big employer in the EU. In fact, it’s a small player. As Eurostat reported “in 2014, about 34m people were employed in the manufacturing sector across the EU, representing 15.4 % of total employment. Among these workers, 2.3m were employed in high-tech manufacturing, corresponding to 1.1 % of total employment.” That’s employers of only 1.1% of total EU jobs are to receive tax incentives the 98.9% won’t. What’s wrong with this picture?

Ireland doesn’t fare much better. While we lead the EU with 3% of our workforce in the high-tech sector, it’s estimated nearly 50% are not in high-tech jobs, but in administration roles. At most 2% of our workforce are employed in these Innovation, Research and Development roles. 2%, it’s hardly worth giving such huge tax breaks to, is it?

OECD, young firms, job creation

More worrying, the Big MNC’s aren’t really innovating anymore. They don’t need to. They are sitting on huge pots of money. What they do is wait to see which start up (genuine innovator) is doing well, or has promise and they buy them out. Bang, the market shrinks, they consolidate their position and the Innovation becomes theirs, along with the tax break. Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Between 2011 and 2015 the Big Players spent nine times more money in acquiring (buying up) innovation than on innovation itself. Yet we want to give the tax break to the Big Guys, already earning over €750m per year. Am I missing something here?

These Behemoths are not innovators. Some of them are not even big employers. In 2015 Facebook’s global workforce was less than 13,000. Poke that on your wall beside your timeline or something!

It’s the maintenance guys and girls that are the workforce. They’re the ones busy keeping the show on the road. The true innovators (young dynamic firms) aren’t earning €750m per year. The true innovators (job creators) are the head of the hammer, the maintainers swing the handle, but in this new CCCBT deal it’s the Big Guy who takes the nut they crack. I’m not okay with that. Are you?

 

Tony Groves October 2016

Image result for corporation tax cartoon

Warning: I will be writing about this CCCBT again.

*to support the Simon Community click here

Mr Unpopular

This is a bit of a personal piece; a topic very close to my heart. It is something I’m deeply familiar with. A condition I’ve had for as long as I can remember. This is an issue that I’ve not ever spoken about before, not even with my family. Here it goes, be gentle with me…

I am unpopular.

There, I’ve said it. I am really unpopular and this online persona I put out is just me trolling you. You see, I’ve a tendency to think I’m smarter than I am. I definitely think I’m smarter than you lot. I like to believe, no matter what your beliefs or convictions, I can convince you that not only am I right, but I am always right, even when I’m wrong.

Hours are spent working out which particular psychological buttons to press in others, in order to undermine them, just for a laugh. I can go entire weeks pretending to listen to the opinions of others, wasting their time and in the end doing what I bloody well want. To hell with everyone else!

Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little mischievous, I even feign interest in such topics as human rights, politics and water charges. Only to get a rise out of the Lefty Loonies and Shinnerbots, you understand. I’m telling you this because it’s time to step out from behind the facade. It’s time to embrace my unpopularity.

You see, these days the worst thing you can be is Popular. The only way to get on in this great country of ours is to be deeply unpopular. I mean, look at Fine Gael. They’re deeply unpopular. Poll after poll puts them as representatives of less than one quarter of the population. The party that represents less than one in four of us is about to represent us all in Government. If that doesn’t tell you Populism isn’t popular, then I can’t help you.

If you can’t see there’s so much to admire in the deeply unpopular lame duck Taoiseach enda kenny, then you need to get your eyes tested. Here’s a man who wears his unpopularity like a badge of honour. He speaks so wonderfully condescendingly to the country.  He’s called us whingers, made up stories and portrayed himself as the hero of the nation. He has a drive to be re-elected as Taoiseach at any cost to our Democracy that, whatever your politics, you have to respect.

Dear Leader enda is a creator. He has created the Irish Chumocracy: a form of government where the wealthy limit democracy to the benefit of themselves and their Chums. Not only did he help create this deeply unpopular form of administration, he also gave us the age of the Quangocracy. He birthed the Super-Quango.

A deeply unpopular Super-Quango, Irish Water, with its manipulated compliance figures, is to continue devouring money behind the veil of “suspended charges”. Its existence testament to Dear Leader. Who needs a value for money functioning water utility when you can have a Super-Quango? The success of this Quangocracy has only emboldened me to become even more unpopular.

I think I might join the ranks of Climate Change Deniers. I hear there are many in the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the Department of the Environment, looking for a thick skinned spokesman. A man able to say things like “We in the IFA take the challenge of Climate Change very seriously”, while ensuring members aren’t restricted by pesky International Climate Deals. My fork tongue can spew lies and obfuscations. I’m the reptile for the job.

If they won’t have me, I’ll call the Iona Crusader Institute. They’d be thrilled to have a man as unpopular as me on their staff. As well as morally bankrupt, I’m also an Atheist. Imagine the mileage David and Breda could get from brandishing me as a symbol of their diversity. I could issue a statement saying that “The Iona Crusaders have given me the freedom to explore my Atheism in a safe environment. All you need to do is give up control over your life. And I call on all men and (especially) women to give up (body) autonomy to these great people. They really do know best”. And you’d have to do it. You can’t go against my minority Atheist beliefs!

If all else fails, I could send out feelers to the many Anti-Refugee groups springing up in this fantastic little Island. I saw one recently, the “Soldiers of Odin”, pledging to rid us of the scourge of “sub human species” and “rapefugees”. While their grammar is awful and I abhor bad spelling, their goals are inline with my quest for further unpopularity. They need a foot-soldier like me. I could write their literature, softening the message and legitimising their goals by drawing comparisons between them and the inhuman treatment currently received in direct provision centres.

I’d need to change the name of course; Soldiers of Odin is too militaristic. Something friendly like the “Saviours of Fluffy Bunnies”, who doesn’t want to save fluffy bunnies?

Finally, if this doesn’t help me reach peak unpopularity, I’ll run for elected office. I can’t be any more unpopular than the future/current/old crowd, can I?

 

 

Tony Groves April 2016 enda unpopular

This populist piece is satirical. Which used to be popular.