Monthly Archives: April 2017

Property Madness Revisits Ireland

Have a look at the various European properties below which have a roughly similar sales price of  €400k ($436k, £339k). The feature appeared in today’s Irish Times with no commentary.

Now, which of these would you like to live in? The bungalow near Galway (look at it and imagine it’s a cold rainy day!) or the house in sunny Portugal with a swimming pool, or the 15th century French chateau? Or how about the house in Crete with views of the Med, or the stone house in Italy which has olive, almond and other fruit trees in the garden?

If your answer is the same as mine, which is all of them except the place in Galway, then I think you must agree that Ireland is well on the way up a property price spiral similar to the one that brought about near financial collapse in 2008.

And of course the government won’t do anything about it because rising house prices make existing property owners, i.e. conservative voters, happy.

And newspapers like The Irish Times don’t mind too much either because the ad revenue generated by property bubbles is not to be sniffed at, especially in these parlous times for old fashioned print products. Maybe that’s why the piece was published without comment.

So, expect the spiral to continue upwards. My advice to Irish homeowners? Sell if you can and take the place in Portugal. Come to think of it why the hell are we staying in Trump’s America when we could be swimming in a pool in Portugal?

The 191sq m house in Crete is on a slope, giving it great views
The 191sq m house in Crete is on a slope, giving it great views

In the village of Aptera, which dates to the Minoan era, this four-bedroom house has views of Souda Bay, Kalives Bay and inland to mountains. The 191sq m house is on a slope, giving it those great views from inside – mainly from a vast picture window in the living room on the upper floor – as well as from the terraces beside both levels of the house. There is parking for three cars and heating is solar powered.
Price: €400,000
Agent: Kritikoethos. com

Ireland: Galway

Re/Max is seeking €400,000 for this four-bedroom house on Coast Road, Oranmore, Co Galway

Re/Max is seeking €400,000 for this four-bedroom house on Coast Road, Oranmore, Co Galway

France: Poitou Charentes

The 15th century chateau in St Claud, France, has been renovated, yet period pieces remain
The 15th century chateau in St Claud, France, has been renovated, yet period pieces remain

Things are dramatic right from the entrance to this 15th century chateau where a stair sweeps up from the hall. While the chateau, in St Claud, has been renovated, period pieces remain, including stone fireplaces, a wood-panelled dining room and all six upstairs bedrooms, exposed stone walls, wooden floors, decorative plasterwork and a stone floor in the 66sq m medieval kitchen. The chateau looks to a courtyard in one direction and a garden with lake in another.
Price: €399,950

Italy: Apulia

The stone house in Apulia, Italy, has two bedrooms, a bathroom and two receptions
The stone house in Apulia, Italy, has two bedrooms, a bathroom and two receptions

Five minutes from Ceglie Messapica town, this two-storey stone house comes with trulli buildings in its garden, adding to the accommodation of 350sq m. The main house, in good condition, has two bedrooms, a bathroom and two receptions. The garden, surrounded by a dry-stone wall, has olive, almond, pine and other fruit trees. Brindisi airport is just over half an hour away.
Price: €400,000
Agent: Immobiliareprofim. com

Portugal: Albufeira

The 108sq m three-bedroom, four-bathroom home in Albufeira, Portugal, comes with a swimming pool
The 108sq m three-bedroom, four-bathroom home in Albufeira, Portugal, comes with a swimming pool

Close to the beaches at Oura and St John Fort, this house has a cool white aesthetic inside and out, with tiled floors and the odd exposed stone wall to add texture and tradition to the sleek interior. The 108sq m three-bedroom, four-bathroom home comes with a swimming pool.
Price: €399,000

Scappaticci: BBC’s John Ware And Myself Debate Role Of UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee

Following my criticism on this site, here and here, of BBC Panorama’s documentary on Freddie Scappaticci, the British agent in the IRA’s spy-catcher unit known as ‘Steak Knife’, the programme’s presenter, John Ware took issue with my comments on the Belfast-based website Slugger O’Toole.

You can read his critique here.

My response was published on Slugger this morning, and you can read it here.

Nothing like a spat between two journalists to enliven your day!


Well, That Didn’t Take Long…..

Obama To Receive $400,000 Fee For Cantor-Fitzgerald Wall Street Speech

Posted By Ian Schwartz
On Date April 24, 2017

Fox Business Network’s Charlie Gasparino reported Monday afternoon that former President Obama is set to receive $400,000 for a speaking engagement at a Cantor-Fitzgerald event in the fall. Gasparino said the former president hasn’t been out of office but for 100 days and he is already “cashing in.” Cantor-Fitzgerald, a renowned financial services firm, notably lost the most employees of any organization that had office space in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

“What sources are telling FOX Business Network is that former President Obama, now less than 100 days out of office, has agreed to a speaking engagement during Cantor Fitzgerald’s healthcare conference in September,” FBN’s Gasparino said. “We understand that he is going to be the keynote speaker for the lunch, and he’s going to receive a fee of $400,000. We should point out that that’s in line with what Hilary Clinton got… we should point out that Cantor will neither confirm or deny.”

The Putin Scandal At Chelsea Football Club No-One Talks About

As Chelsea football club edge their way to the English premier league championship trophy, it is worth remembering just how the corrupt links between Chelsea’s Russian oligarch owner, Roman Abramovich and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin have made possible Chelsea’s dominance of English football over the last decade and more.

In this excellent piece from July 2013, Matthew Syed of The Times traced the sordid background to Abramovich’s entry to English football and the baleful influence he has exerted over the game ever since.

Syed’s article appeared just as the popularity of English soccer, especially in the US, was growing and along with that the huge profits that now threaten to transform the game beyond recognition.

With the cash registers cha-chinging away like crazy, few now want to be reminded of this seedy history. Putin’s influence over Donald Trump is fair game, it seems, but not his impact on English football.

Bruce Buck, by the way, is Chelsea’s chairman. Boris Berezovsky was a former business partner of Abramovich and an oligarch in his own right. Berezovsky, who called from his exile in London for the overthrow of Vladimir Putin, was involved in a famous courtroom battle with Abramovich in 2012, which you can read about here. He died about a year later, apparently by his own hand.

Putin and Abramovich

July 3, 2013 Wednesday
Buck stops here in the story of Abramovich

BY: Matthew Syed

It was kind of Bruce Buck to explain just what a benign influence Roman Abramovich, his boss, has exerted upon football these past ten years. Gracing these pages on Monday, Buck talked glowingly about Abramovich’s “passion for the game” and about how Chelsea “engage in hundreds of community activities at home and abroad”.

But he didn’t stop there. Buoyed, no doubt, by the ecstasies of being chairman of such a progressive and enlightened institution, he ventured into Mother Teresa territory to bring home to readers precisely why Abramovich has put his time and money into a football club in southwest London.

Those of us who thought it may have been about his fear of retribution from Vladimir Putin for his part in the rigged privatisations of the Boris Yeltsin era have had it wrong all these years. The very idea that Abramovich had been keen to buy a high-profile British asset as a shield against possible arrest, a theory bolstered by evidence in the Boris Berezovsky lawsuit last year, was not even mentioned by the American.

No, according to the lawyer who was paid to advise Abramovich on acquisitions in the former Soviet Union before being appointed chairman of Chelsea, the Russian billionaire is all about heart. All about passion.

In particular, he is about “building something sustainable, using the name of Chelsea Football Club to have a positive impact on the young and disadvantaged, and making a difference to communities, not just in London, but around the world”.

You may detect an undercurrent of sarcasm in my tone so far, but, whichever way you look at it, Buck is a remarkable character. For years he has attempted to act as the rational, sane, morally uplifting face of Chelsea Football Club. He has been the man who has talked to the press, sometimes even to the cameras, when worries about the moral basis of Chelsea have been at their most intense.

With his emollient persona and quiet demeanour, he has been of huge value to his boss. If an avuncular chap such as Bruce is so visibly involved with Chelsea, people wonder, why should we be concerned about the origins of the money that is bankrolling the operation? But on Monday in this newspaper, Buck chanced his arm, to my mind just a little too much. He attempted to present a portrait of Chelsea so utterly out of kilter with reality, so carefully idealised, that many people finally saw through the mirage. And they began to focus, perhaps for the first time, on the man who has become Abramovich’s lightning rod.

The lack of context in Buck’s portrait of Chelsea was breathtaking. After all, the money that Abramovich has lavished on Chelsea, and which the American was so keen to eulogise about, was gained in the most grotesque of circumstances. Don’t take my word for it. Jonathan Sumption, the QC for Abramovich in his trial with Berezovsky, admitted as much in open court last year.

The story is simple. In return for handing Abramovich and other oligarchs the mineral wealth of the Russian people at a fraction of its true price, Yeltsin was given a multimillion-pound loan and the use of leading television channels for propaganda in the 1996 presidential campaign. Paul Gregory, the economist, described the quid pro quo as “the largest single heist in corporate history and a lasting emblem of the corruption of modern Russia”.

Abramovich spent much of this on extravagant playthings, including a fleet of yachts, helicopters, his own private Boeing and homes around the world. Chelsea, however, were about kyrsha, the Russian word for protection. It was a purchase motivated more by careful political calculation than by passion.

The idea of Abramovich – the man who emerged triumphant from the bloody aluminium wars – as a romantic, dewy-eyed football fan is beneath contempt.

Chelsea do many admirable things. Buck is right to talk about the charitable work that is undertaken by many Premier League outfits, his own club included. But that should not obscure the wider context in which Chelsea operate, and their underlying financial basis.

The real question is: what does Buck have to say about the origin of the money that is paying his salary? It is all well and good arguing that the Russian’s desire is “to build an institution that will provide everlasting joy and pride to Chelsea fans”, but what about how Abramovich boosted his shareholding in Sibneft, the oil producer, by allegedly manipulating wage payments in order to take over worker-controlled stock and conducting a closed share issue in one of its most profitable subsidiaries? The purpose of a free press is to expose these things. It is about penetrating the bulls*** and shining a light on the true basis of relationships.

The reality is that Abramovich used Chelsea as a pawn in a game of far bigger stakes. It is certainly true – as many Chelsea fans point out – that he is not the first dubious owner to have piled into football, but that is no reason to refrain from highlighting the truth about his past. Neither is it a reason to back off those who surround him, and who have made a living defending him.

Buck likes to present Abramovich (and, by extension, himself) as an enlightened, progressive figure. He argues that the Russian has been a huge force for good in English football. The truth is precisely the opposite.

Abramovich has been, for a decade now, an insidious presence in our national game.

Heeeeeeeeeeee’s Back!

Not the one on the left, silly! But the one on the right!

In the columns of Time magazine, un-indicted war criminal, Henry Kissinger reveals himself to be a sometime adviser to Jared Kushner, son-in-law of Donald Trump and said by mainstream media types to be the coming power behind the White House throne and replacement for right-wing loony Steve Bannon.

Canny investors are said to be placing stock market bets on Dow Chemicals, makers of napalm and Monsanto, manufacturers of Agent Orange.

Here is what he says about his new protege:

That Syrian Gas Attack: An Alternative Version

Oh Dear! Another Leicester City Fairytale Bites The Dust!

That’ll teach you to dump on poor old Uncle Claudio!