Friday, September 30, 2011

Please try the fish

The Wall Street Journal's agenda column takes another run at Iceland vs Ireland comparisons.  The gist of it is that the comparisons don't look as good for Iceland as they did earlier in the year because Ireland has had a few quarters of export-led growth, but it's still the case that telling the banksters to go to hell, as Iceland did, is not obviously a worse strategy as the banksters would have you believe.

The different sources of exports in each country need to borne in mind: Ireland relies heavily on multinational tech and pharma, while Iceland has energy-related and fish.  Fish might have worked for Ireland, except that the once-permanent party of government, Fianna Fail, gave them all away to the EU in 1972 as part of the membership negotiations, much as they would later give away the national pension fund to the aforementioned banksters.  So one of the lessons of the comparison might be that the voters shouldn't elect parties with a track record of sacrificing national assets, which the Irish electorate appears to have taken on board as of 2011.

What all this has to do with Greece -- the ostensible subject of the WSJ article -- is not clear. One less obvious lesson may be that a political cleansing -- which Iceland had when the crisis broke and Ireland had at the start of 2011 -- can have strong economic effects.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eurocrats find their level

European Commission --

Brussels 29 September 2011: The European Commission today decided to refer Poland to the EU's Court of Justice because it maintains obstacles to the registration of right-hand drive vehicles in Poland. National legislation requires that the steering wheel is placed on the left-hand side of the vehicle. That means that, in practice, new and used cars with right-hand drive cannot be registered.

Photo: 1959 Morris Mini-Minor interior via Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Playgirl of the Northern World

BBC --

A farmer who allowed one of the world's best-selling pop stars to film in his grain field told her to cover up after she stripped down for a video.

DUP Alderman Alan Graham said he was fetching his tractor when he saw her and thought it was unacceptable. The 'Rude Boy' star was filming a new pop video in his Bangor field.

"I thought it was inappropriate. I requested them to stop and they did," he explained. "I had my conversation with Rihanna and I hope she understands where I'm coming from. We shook hands," he said.

Mr Graham admitted that he did not know who the 23-year-old sex symbol was when he got a phone call to ask for the use of his field in Bangor, County Down, for a pop video last week.

Plankton's greatest scheme yet

Bloomberg News

Nakheel PJSC, the builder of man- made islands off Dubai’s coast, said some of the land used as collateral for a $1.31 billion Islamic bond is at the bottom of the Persian Gulf.

“The land has been valued by reputable companies and was accepted by lenders and trade creditors,” Chairman Ali Rashed Lootah said after a press conference today, without saying who evaluated the asset. “What’s the issue?”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cultural collapse comes to the borders of the cradle of Islam

News agency of the United Arab Emirates --

As part of its community-oriented initiatives, the Vehicles Licensing Department, Licensing Agency at Roads '&' Transport Authority (RTA) has recently delivered an educative lecture entitled: Safe Driving for Woman with the aim of protecting women from road accidents through casting light on the safe driving methods.

There's something else I meant to tell you

4 days ago, Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh popped in to see his good friend Saudi King Abdullah who  had provided medical treatment in Riyadh after Saleh was injured in a bomb attack in Sanaa.  It seemed to be a pure courtesy call and there wasn't much sign that Saleh was headed back to oversee his killing machine in Yemen anytime soon, especially as it seems to be functioning quite well without him.

Today, he went back to Yemen.

Did he tell the Saudis he was going back? The choreography of the photo suggests not, but of course it's all guessing from the outside. But there's a strong likelihood that people who thought they knew what was going on are feeling duped.  It's going to be a long weekend.

Photo: Saudi Press Agency

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It's conspiracies all the way down

Here's the English text of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's address to the General Assembly of the UN.  It's bizarre even by his standards.  Apparently the USA caused World Wars I and II, which is probably the theory you'd need if you didn't want the Nazis to be a part of your version of history.  But by the same logic of his theories, doesn't the fact that his clowning makes Iran look so bad and causes people to side with the US and Israel prove that he himself must be an Israeli agent? 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not the first place you'd think has too many visitors

From Bahrain News Agency ... a Gulf Air flight departs from Bahrain for Kabul, Afghanistan, Kabul Airport presumably knows it's coming, but when it gets to Kabul, it's refused permission to land --

The Afghan authorities recently advised the airline to reduce its flights from four to two per week without justifiable reason and in direct contravention of the bilateral agreement in place between The Kingdom of Bahrain and Afghanistan which permits Gulf Air to operate 8 flights per week. Gulf Air was therefore operating in accordance with its schedule and the bilateral agreements in place between Bahrain and Afghanistan. 

As such the refusal to permit landing directly contravenes the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)agreements and protocols in this regard. Furthermore, none of the other airlines operating higher frequencies into Kabul have been subjected to such punitive measures.

As in such cases, one has to guess whether incompetence or a hidden agenda is at work.  But it does appear that 10 years of war hasn't even gotten Kabul a proper air traffic control system.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Somehow this is going to end up as evidence against global warming

From the US Dept of Justice lawsuit alleging that Ireland-based Full Tilt poker was a Ponzi scheme; this is the section dealing with how Full Tilt was running its payments through fake fronts so that US banks wouldn't know they were dealing with a gambling operation --

In another example, in or around June 2009, Franzen, the defendant, working with multiple co-conspirators, created a phony business called “Green2YourGreen” to be used to disguise payments from U.S. gamblers destined for each of the Poker Companies.  Franzen’s coconspirators falsely told multiple United States banks insured by the FDIC, including Citibank and Wells Fargo Bank, among others, that “Green2YourGreen” was a “direct sales” business that allowed consumers to buy environmentally friendly household products and sell them to other consumers in return for commissions.  Indeed, the phony Green2YourGreen website that Franzen’s co-conspirators created to disguise the gambling transactions listed numerous products that were purportedly for sale and contained “testimonials” about the benefits of green living.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

This paragraph might also disappear

New York Times --

MADRID — A Spanish judge has reopened an abandoned sexual assault case against a Saudi prince who is one of the world’s richest men, reviving accusations that he raped a 20-year-old model on a luxury yacht in the Spanish Mediterranean in August 2008.

The prince, Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, a nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, is the largest individual stakeholder in Citigroup and, among his other major holdings, is the second largest investor in the News Corporation. Forbes valued his fortune this year at $19.4 billion, making him the 26th richest man in the world and the single richest in the Arab world.
Prince al-Waleed's holding company has put out a pretty definitive sounding rebuttal which suggests that more than one person got taken in:
There have been many examples of people impersonating Prince Alwaleed over the internet and elsewhere for their own purposes. While one can suppose a young person in Ibiza might be fooled by such a fraud, we would have expected more from the New York Times.
So who was their source?

Not quiet on the northern front

A good Wall Street Journal op-ed by Neill Lochery overcomes its subtitle gaffe -- "tensions continue to simmer in Ulster" (sic) -- to explain how, contrary to claims of boasting Irish PMs on victory laps, inner Belfast is still a segregated and troubled city.  One notable claim:

What followed the [Northern Bank] robbery was a huge money laundering operation, with pubs and small hotels in Dublin exchanging hands for as much €10 million as the IRA allegedly tried to legitimize its ill-gotten gains. British intelligence agencies heavily monitored this activity, but politicians in London and Dublin were reluctant to do anything to stop to stop it for fear of derailing the peace process.

Did the Irish government know of specific property deals done with dodgy money and not intervene?  Now that's light-touch regulation!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This paragraph might disappear

From a Wall Street Journal op-ed article by Nicolas Lecaussin:

'We can no longer borrow dollars. U.S. money-market funds are not lending to us anymore," a bank executive for BNP Paribas, who declines to be named, told me last week. "Since we don't have access to dollars anymore, we're creating a market in euros. This is a first. . . . We hope it will work, otherwise the downward spiral will be hell. We will no longer be trusted at all and no one will lend to us anymore."

Apparently BNP is not happy about the quote.  It is a bit strange for a financial newspaper to put unsourced but clearly sensitive quotes in such a prominent place.  The habits of political coverage don't play so well on the financial side of the shop.

UPDATE: On the substantive point of the article, Robert Peston makes a similar argument.  In France, it's civil servants running the banks.

FINAL UPDATE: More at A Fistful of Euros.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

11 September 2001-2011

We tried to think about something useful to say for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 but it all failed to pass the test of whether it was better not to say anything at all.

So instead we're nominating Green Day as the musical accompaniment to the last decade -- which has had a lot more downs than ups -- and suggest the following among their legitimate (and thus non-embeddable) Youtube material as appropriate 9/11 + 10 music.

Wake me up when September ends

21 Guns

Last of the American Girls

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

It's systemically important that banks do business with dictators

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent story that works through some of the juicy stuff that is showing up the Libyan document trove.  Specifically, French investment bank Societe General made large payments to a Panama-registered vehicle (because it works so well for ships, after all) named Leinada, and no-one can figure out what exact services Leinada provided, but some doors in Libya certainly seemed to have opened as a result.

A little Googling reveals that similar documents have been floating around in the Arabic language media for some time, with occasional translations into English bringing them to more general attention.  So here's the excellent Zanga Zanga blog (the title plays off a ludicrous Gaddafi speech) with a further nugget in a post that also has a lot about SocGen --

At some point in 2008/2009 SIG [Saif al-Islam Gaddafi] was persuaded or otherwise came to the conviction that the acquisition by the LIA [Libyan Investment Authority] of a portfolio of media securities would be of some strategic value to Libya or himself. The intent was that such companies could then be persuaded to make JV [Joint Venture] investments in Libya or in any case report more favourably. Very active in this proposal were Mr. Alejandro Agag and Mr.Ignacio Munoz Alonso  of Addax Capital LLP. These put together a patently corrupt and incompetently documented proposal to set up an Irish fund (with only the LIA as investor) to purchase stock off the market in the likes of Pearson and News Corporation. The documentation and structure were substandard. The intent was that the LIA would invest $1 bn.

The late Celtic Tiger era.  Preferred light-touch home of dodgy investment vehicle for dictator's son to invest the people's oil money in Murdoch enterprises.  Then again, it looks like much of the financial sector in western Europe and the USA was on the take from Libya, big time, during this era.  Then, when things went pear-shaped, the same banks demanded, and got, bailouts from their home governments.  We might not have a SocGen to report on today if it wasn't for the AIG bailout.  One wonders if the same bailout made them any more subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act than they would be otherwise.

UPDATE 8 SEPTEMBER: Also from the "light touch" department, a New York judge has rejected HSBC's proposed settlement with investors in an Irish-based Madoff feeder fund.

Monday, September 05, 2011

It's a great site for a TGI McScratchy's Goodtime Fooddrinkery

Urban cultural preservation, Irish style:

[Irish Times] Dublin City Council has denied planning permission for a McDonald's restaurant in Temple Bar. The proposed development had met resistance from groups such as An Taisce and the Temple Bar Cultural Trust who argued that its construction would detract from the cultural, artistic and historic character of the area.

The US-based fast food giant had hoped to locate itself on the site of Frankie's Steakhouse and Bar at Temple Bar Square.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Don't bother me with the facts

Nobel Prize winning economist and University of Chicago Professor Gary Becker in the Wall Street Journal

Highly publicized are the troubles facing Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain that are mainly due to the growth in spending and debt of their governments prior to the 2008 crisis.

Above, the public debt of Ireland 2000-2010.  And those figures are in currency terms, so debt as a share of GDP was actually declining sharply until the light-touch-regulated banks blew up the country. See also Paul Krugman.