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Wow. My favourite publicans' representative group has declared a freeze on the price of drink for the next year, effective immediately. I'm sure there's a fast one being pulled here somewhere, because I am naturually cynical and suspicious of these clowns, but hey, nice move.
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Remember all those fearmongering liberals running around saying that so-called terror laws would be used outside their intended purpose? How wrong they were, eh?
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Apple's new 13" MacBook bought from the Irish Apple Store costs an extra €246 over the straight exchange rate conversion. Mr. Jobs, you do realise we've just had a pretty brutal budget here and people won't be able to afford your shiny toys any more?
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INCOMING business secretary Peter Mandelson warned yesterday that the EU could be hit by a surge of “economic nationalism” after European governments enacted a series of unilateral moves to shore up their financial systems at the expense of other member states. (link)

And today:
The British government has announced a part-nationalisation of the country's eight main banks with a bailout worth up to £50bn. (link)

I can see Mr. Mandelson is getting on just fine with his new coworkers.
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"Better still, Postbank offers you the security of a banking service backed by An Post and Fortis, one of Europe's largest banking institutions."

Mhmm. Yes. Security.

The governments of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have intervened with a €1.2bn bailout of one of Europe's biggest banking and insurance companies Fortis. (link)
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So we have the OECD telling us our housing market is doomed, the ESRI telling us we're in recession, various goverment rumblings about belt-tightening, and the opposition party accusing the Taoiseach of being personally responsible for the global economic downturn (to be fair, he was the Minister for Finance before he was Taoiseach, but even if you believe that Ireland is one of the richest countries in the EU I don't think our budgetary decisions have had any significant impact in the face of, say, subprime-mortgage-related crashes). In the midst of all this, the general secretary of the IMPACT union suggests that prudent behaviour with regard to wages is "absurd", and also this choice piece of MATH FAIL:
He said: 'What we didn't have in the 80s was the Social Partnership framework that we have been working under for the last 21 years.'
Since, er, 1987 - which is the year that Wall Street crashed rather spectacularly obviously isn't in "the 80s".

(yes, I realise he's more likely to be referring to the early 80s. Let me have my snide remarks, dammit. Also I exaggerate Fine Gael's stance on the handling of the economy for much the same reason.)
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Startlingly, this great sceptic, this non-guru who believes in nothing, is still a practising Christian. He regards with some contempt the militant atheism movement led by Richard Dawkins.
"Scientists don't know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don't believe it has any negative impact on people's lives outside of intolerance. Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman? You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of candles. It's an aesthetic thing.” (link)
This is an interesting article - with, admittedly, a few odd hints, like that Taleb isn't entirely convinced of global warming - but I really like that quote. I've made several attempts to add a little editorialising on this, and I'm not happy with how any of them have come out. So, just read it and make up your own mind.
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It's election season over here: the longest running Dáil in Irish history is shutting down and being replaced on May 24th. Various parties are, as expected, promising to do more and more for less and less: more police, more hospital beds, more investment in education, all with lower taxes and increased tax relief for various things. The Progressive Democrats, the current "junior" party in the incumbent coalition, are claiming in their election manifesto that every time they've been in power, tax rates have gone down dramatically, and therefore the right thing to do for lower taxes is to put them back in power again. They've even got a nice graph to illustrate their point. Of couse, what they're not mentioning is that they've never actually held the Finance portfolio at any point.
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Possibly available in my area soon: "affordable" two-bedroom apartments. The thing is, the reduced price for these will be €300,000; the scheme is only open to people earning up to €55,000 (or €75,000 for couples) but according to the last article I read on the topic (and my out-of-date understanding of the Central Bank's guidelines to lenders), you need to be earning about €75,000 to €100,000 to get a €300,000 mortgage in the first place.

hmmmm.

Jan. 14th, 2007 01:09 pm
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My landlady just stopped by to say she's having the house valued, because she's thinking "vaguely" about moving. This may mean that I have to give up on my little batcave in favour of smaller, pricier digs elsewhere.
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My government-aided special savings account matures at the end of March, and to this end I have to submit a declaration that I've not broken any of the rules associated with the scheme. Reading through the paperwork I find I can submit this declaration online; bear in mind this is essentially a tax document of sorts, in that it's a pretty grievous offence in the eyes of the Revenue folk if you lie on it, but they're happy to accept a checkbox on a web form as a declaration. Go Revenue!

The Bank of Ireland website which is hosting the click-to-declare page then leads me to a page covering further options once the scheme has ended: increase, decrease or cancel the monthly contribution to the account. I try to click on one of the boxes and discover it's not an input box, it's a graphic. There's a note at the bottom of the page to the effect that they can't take this instruction on-line, you have to PRINT THE FORM and post it. NNNGH.

So now I'm trying to decide if this is a sort of incompetent not-getting-this-whole-intarweb-thing on BoI's part or an ingenious way to continue raking in cash, given that in the absence of any instruction the monthly contributions to the account will continue unabated until members of the Irish League of Procrastinators (motto: we'll get around to it) finally realise that it might be a good idea to send in that form we received months ago.
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Curious as to whether my pensions broker had any online means for me to investigate the state of my pension, I had a look at their website. Sure enough, there was a link to Pensions Online. So I clicked on it. And I got:
Site Unavailable

Pensions Schemes Online is available Monday to Friday from 8am until 8pm.
Er. WTF? Do you people not understand THE INTARWEB?
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but I'm waiting on an email and itchy to write stuff. Credit card use here is astonishing, and may in fact account for the priciness of things (if you have to factor in a transaction cost on everything you sell, it's going to add a few points). It is not uncommon for someone to buy a hot dog (approx $3.50) using their credit card. I've gotten into the swing of it myself, buying a beer ($8, more expensive than when I got here due to a shift in currency rates) on plastic because frankly I couldn't be bothered playing with the coins and notes. I'm sure my signature gets progressively more interesting as the night goes on. Speaking of, I've not quite figured out the circumstances under which a signature is required. I've bought $20 meals with no signature, yet every single beer has required my scrawl on the line. I used know something about this, since I spent a year working in the credit card industry, but I can't really make sense of it - it doesn't seem to be split by merchant (which was my expectation) nor by product nor by amount, although ultimately that last is what usually triggers the more serious credit checks (signature, ID, etc.) I'll just shrug and keep signing.
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He's going to Lesotho to play football for 12 days for charity. Cash here, and info here.
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There's a TV programme on right now about middle-class debt (I kid you not), and there are people who are saying things like "I know I'm in debt, but the banks make it so easy", and "everyone buys on credit", and "credit cards are being pushed at me constantly", and blah blah blah. These people all have houses; one of their cases has FOUR HOUSES. Really, people. Get a grip, take some responsibility for your own actions, and SHUT UP. I know people in genuine financial difficulty, and YOU ARE NOT THEM.

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