Archive for January, 2009

Martin Mansergh

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

He made some awfully stupid comments on Vincent Browne tonight. Will post a video once it’s up. What a dumbass.

Lincoln Memorial Event lineup

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Gosh, Obama sure gets the celebrities to come out and sing on January 19. (I might try to go but I imagine it will be heaving)

Musical performers scheduled for the event include Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am, and Stevie Wonder. Among those reading historical passages will be Jamie Foxx, Martin Luther King III, Queen Latifah and Denzel Washington. The Rt. Reverend V. Gene Robinson will give the invocation. Rob Mathes will be the music director and arranger for the backing band, which will support all of the artists. Additional performers will be announced as they are confirmed.

Patrick Neary resigns

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Finally. The head of the Financial Regulator will “retire” from January 31, 2009.

He should have fallen on his sword a long time ago.

Here is in a bizarre interview in October:

There is something odd about all of this though. Back in December, the Financial Regulator issued a statement:

The Financial Regulator became aware, following an inspection earlier this year, of matters surrounding loans from Anglo Irish Bank to Sean Fitzpatrick. While it does not appear that anything illegal took place in relation to these loans, the Financial Regulator was of the view that the practices surrounding these loans were not appropriate. As a result we continued to monitor and investigate this and as part of this process we advised Anglo Irish Bank to ensure that these loans are reported in the annual accounts for 2008.

While these matters remain under investigation, the Financial Regulator was informed today by the Board of Anglo Irish of the resignation of Sean Fitzpatrick as chairman and Mr Lar Bradshaw as director. It has welcomed the appointment of Mr Donal O’Connor as the new chairman. As these matters remain under investigation, it is not possible to comment further at this time.

But hang on a minute. Neary now says this:

I had deferred a decision about my retirement until the Report of the Committee of the Authority examining the internal communication of matters relating to loans to Directors of Anglo Irish Bank Corporation plc was concluded. So far as I am concerned, I was not advised of any such matters in early 2008 and there has been no oral, written or email escalation of these issues to me or to the Authority over the period until the matter was raised with me by the Minister on 10 December 2008.

Eh? Neary is saying he was not advised of any “such matters” until December 10. So did the Regulator know about the loans in early 2008, or did they not?

The conclusion of the report is up here

· while concerns persisted in BSD the matter was not pursued partly because a letter from Anglo went missing and partly because of the pressure on officials from the unfolding of liquidity problems in financial markets and in individual institutions;

· the Committee noted that while the pressures referred to above did not explain what occurred they are an essential part of the background;

· the issue did not surface again internally, even in Autumn 2008, when major stability and strategic issues were being addressed by the authorities including the Government;

· in relation to the particular issue of whether this matter had been mentioned to the Prudential Director and Chief Executive after a wider meeting had concluded in January 2008, the Committee was impressed with the coherence, clarity and belief in their stated recollections of the people concerned and their integrity. Nevertheless, the evidence presented to the Committee on this issue could not be reconciled by the Committee. There is no suggestion from any party that any communication – verbal or written – on this issue was made to either the Prudential Director or Chief Executive in the period (subsequent to January) to December 2008..

So the “Regulator” (as a body) knew about it. A letter went missing. People in the office of the regulator never told the chief executive about the loans…? What?

Bono to write column for NY Times

Friday, January 9th, 2009

He will also do a podcast, says NY Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal. The column won’t be weekly but it will be occasional. Bono noted:

Bono called the gig “an honor,” and joked that he’s “never been great with the full stops or commas.”

Ah sure, what harm. I think it’s a good move for the NY Times. What say ye?

UK U2?

Friday, January 9th, 2009

The redesigned FP site is really very good. And their recently hired bloggers have been creating a stir. But what is this from Stephen Walt?

The UK has produced any number of world-class rock bands and artists: the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, U-2, Sex Pistols, Van Morrison, Cream, Elvis Costello, Eurythmics, David Bowie, etc., so my generalization obviously doesn’t apply there.

I’m not sure Irish readers would be entirely happy with that. In fact many would be livid. Van the Man and Bono would not be happy.

Update: Josh Keating also spots it.

S&P cuts Ireland outlook

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Reuters:

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said today it revised its outlook on the Republic of Ireland to negative from stable, on what we view as mounting fiscal pressures and deterioration of key economic sectors. At the same time, the ‘AAA’ long-term and ‘A-1+’ short-term sovereign credit ratings were affirmed. Standard & Poor’s also affirmed its ‘AAA/A-1+’ ratings on the debt programs and instruments of those Irish banks where they are guaranteed until maturity by the Republic of Ireland.

“The outlook revision reflects our opinion of the rising economic policy challenges stemming from the contraction of the key housing, construction, and financial sectors, which have spurred many years of strong economic growth and fiscal consolidation,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Trevor Cullinan. According to the European Commission, property-related tax (capital gains tax and stamp duty) accounted for 15% (3.8% of GDP) of total tax revenues in 2006, falling to 8% in the first eight months of 2008, the single most important factor in the deterioration in the general government balance. We have observed that general government debt levels also increased substantially between 2007 and 2008, by more than 16% of GDP, as a result of the widening deficit, although a substantial portion of the increased indebtedness (10% of GDP) remains in Exchequer cash balances as a liquidity buffer.

We note that the government has also extended guarantees to seven domestic credit institutions through Sept. 29, 2010, increasing general government guaranteed debt to an estimated 228% of GDP in 2009. Banking system exposure to the property and construction sector of about one-third of total loans (excluding interbank lending) suggests a high risk of asset deterioration at these institutions.

The ratings on the Republic of Ireland are supported by what we view as the flexibility of its economy, high per capita income, and a favorable demographic structure. The government’s commitment to contribute 1% of GNP per annum to the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF), in our opinion, reduces the fiscal burden of population aging more than in some other European countries. However, the government is expected to use NPRF assets to assist in funding an estimated EUR10 billion (5% of GDP) recapitalization of its domestic banking sector.

“The negative outlook reflects our view of the likelihood of a downgrade if ongoing fiscal measures to recapitalize the banks and boost the economy fail to improve competitiveness, diversity, and growth prospects, thereby leaving a more difficult-to-manage debt burden,” said Mr. Cullinan. “Conversely, the negative outlook could revert to stable if the government’s strategy is successful and allows public finances to return to the stronger position of recent years,” he added.

Why is this important? This makes it more difficult/expensive for us to borrow. This is a very negative outlook – and could be a portent of further downgrades. More over at the pin.

Demotix

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

The new website went live today. I prefer it over the previous incarnation. I haven’t started uploading photos (not that there was much to upload, perhaps some Georgia/US election ones).

Not heard of it? It’s a British-based website for photographers to upload and sell their photos, sharing revenue with Demotix (who sell the photos for you). More here.

Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General?

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Say it aint so!

Wonkette says a good analogy would be Judge Judy for Supreme Court. Hehe.

Dr. Gupta, who performs double duty as a medical correspondent for CNN and a neurosurgeon, is a leading contender to fill the high-profile position in the Obama administration. The job could be accepted in the coming days, according to people familiar with the situation at the television network and in the Obama transition.

Macworld 2009

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

The last one. Macrumors has a roundup of what may be launched. I certainly expect to see a revamped Mac Mini. The iPhone Nano is a big fat maybe, but I do expect to see it sometime in 2009.

Oh and Apple have also launched the MacBook Wheel.


Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard

Hehe.

Morning papers

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Ireland

State move to borrow billions will test standing of economy
The first of many billions. We might get screwed on costs too.

8,000 Waterford pensions under threat from collapse
Pension scheme €111m in the red.

Child report dismissed by diocese committee
Apparently the diocese is prepared to sue over the report.

High-rise areas set out in latest draft plan
Planners will refine high-rise policy.

ESB to pay rebates on 100,000 overcharged bill
Shane Ross scores another victory. Why do I feel like ESB are still overcharging though?

More than half of litter fines unpaid
Council staff writing off fines.

FF not able to claim Flynn’s allowance
The allowance she says she is “entitled” to. Hearing that word a lot lately. FF can’t get their hands on it, but it should go to taxpayer. Flynn can feck off.

Elsewhere

In a Quiet Rebellion, Parishioners Keep the Faith
For 1,533 days, parishioners in Massachusetts have been guarding a church so that the archdiocese cannot sell it.

Prosecutors Want Madoff’s Bail Revoked
He apparently tried to mail $1m worth of jewellery to friends.

Twitter-Savvy Hackers Tweak the Twitterati
For anyone not on Twitter, the big news was the spammin’ and the hackin’ and the phishin’. Techcrunch was on it.

Picasa for Mac

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Finally. It’s Intel only though. I’ll give it a whirl and see how it goes. Just in time for the last Macworld too.

First impression… I like it. It is very similar to the PC version though. Will I start using it over iPhoto? Probably. I like the speed factor, it really lets you fly through your collection.

How do you like it?

More on the Google Blog.

Panetta picked for CIA

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Leon Panetta is to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

Coverage from:
Politico
Steve Clemons gives his take
Talking Points Memo
Red State
Andrew Sullivan
Danger Room has a good round up

Steve Jobs

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Has just released the following statement

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause — a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.

Steve

At least it’s not a recurrence of cancer. The market seems to be ok with it, AAPL is up in premarket.

MacBook Pros

Monday, January 5th, 2009

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I’ve been using the late 2008 version of the MacBook Pro now for about two months (on the right). I had my previous MacBook Pro, the mid-2007 model as a point of reference. There are differences, some good, some bad, but overall the latest model wins it – and for one very good reason – the new trackpad.

Not that the 2007 model was anything bad. It originally had OSX Tiger, which I upgraded to Leopard in December 2007. It is a reliable and sturdy laptop, and never let me down. But it was only when I started using the late 2008 model that I could see what I was missing.

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The trackpad on the new model is a wonder. Using any other trackpad on any other computer feels clunky by comparison. Because it is made of glass, it is smooth to touch. It is larger and easier to use than its predecessor. When I go back to using the older MBP, the plastic trackpad feels ugly.

Of course the biggest advantage of the new trackpad is the multitouch. For someone who has not used it, it might be hard to explain just how much this changes how you use the laptop. In OSX it is a god send. My most commonly used gestures are four-fingers in an upward movement to minimise all windows, and four-fingers downward to show all windows in expose. I find myself unconsciously trying to perform the gestures on the old MBP, before I realise I can’t do them. That’s how used to it you become. You don’t even think about it.

In terms of the screen, both models are LED backlit, meaning excellent colour saturation and viewing angles. Both are glossy screens, the first by choice, the late 2008 model only comes in glossy. I never find this to be a problem, though some do. Even in direct sunlight I can clearly read the screen. The colour on the new model seems to be slightly superior, it just feels more defined.

On the downside though, the USB port on the right side of the MBP has disappeared, to make way for the side rather than front slot loading DVD drive. This means that when you attach a wired mouse, the cable plugs into the left side, while the mouse is on the right. A minor inconvenience, but I guess are expecting us all to have a wireless mouse.

The keyboard on the latest model is one of the new flat-keyed versions originally featured on the MacBook Air, and now on all models minus the 17-inch MBP and the still available white MacBook. I like the new keyboard. The older model keyboard was nice too, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. It does what it says on the tin.

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Overall, I would recommend to anyone considering a new laptop, or a move to Mac, to go Britain and pickup a base model MacBook Pro. They are deadly cheap thanks to a weak sterling. If you are Windows user and are worried about compatibility or usage issues, don’t be, Leopard is many times better and easier to use than either XP or Vista. And if you have Windows apps you want to use, then installing VMware Fusion is a breeze, and you can have both operating systems running side by side.

I was a PC user for the best part of 13 years. I will likely never go back to PC.

New addition

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Meet Bella:

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Bella’s owner is taking a year out to travel the world, so she will be staying with us. And Puds.

Suffice to say, Puds has been sceptical of the arrangement thus far. While Bella looks at Puds obliviously, Puds sneaks around the maruading dog like she is the devil himself. So far though, they have been getting on ok, except for stealing each other’s food now and then.

Puds has also made himself alot less vocal when looking for food, lest the dog figure out his location, or take an interest in what Puds is looking for.

Bella is very well trained, and despite not being her owner, she will follow commands from me like asking her to go to bed. She also tends to get excited when you say the word “walk”, so it is rather W-A-L-K.

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