13 September 2010

...can only get better?

I bumped into one of the architects who designed our building this morning while purchasing my morning caffeine (as in "I met him this morning", not "he designed our building this morning", but you probably figured that out already).

This was not so much of a surprise as, in a gesture of true craftsmanship, he situated his office in our building upon its completion, no doubt to his continued regret given the ease of access this gives residents to his ongoing advice when any problems with the building have arisen, with questions ranging from "What is the carrying capacity of our balcony?" and "Is the rain water in our toilet supposed to be that colour?" to "Why can I hear voices through the glowing crack in our wall?" and "Is that a load-bearing marrow?". All perfectly cromulent enquiries, as you can see.

We are thus on reasonably good speaking terms, and so it was natural of me to ask him this morning by way of greeting, "How are things?". In hindsight, asking an architect such a question in current economic climes was, perhaps, something of a mistake.

He paused. Took a deep breath. Paused again.

"I have come to believe," he opined, "That asking such a question borders on the rude"

He paused again.

"One must be more specific; How is this coffee? How are your family? The phrase 'Things' covers far too wide an area to allow for a proper answer."

'Things' must be pretty bad for architects, so.

I watched the repeat of part one of "Freefall" last night, after catching the original broadcast last week. Essentially a series of interviews with politicians, economists, bankers and journalists, it traced the events leading up to the unilateral bank guarantee given to Irish banks by the government in 2008, the 'events' being a bonus-fueled mass-hysteria amongst lending officials in a compete absence of any sort of functioning regulatory environment that brought their institutions to the brink of complete collapse, followed by a late night visit to the government by the heads of AIB and B of I with an ultimatum as subtle as "its a lovely economy you have here Minister, sure wouldn't it be a shame if anything 'unfortunate' were to happen to it", cue melodramatic music and the sounds of large cheques being cut.

This, we knew.

What was interesting was the direct assertion that either the Banking heads were criminally negligent with the information they supplied to the government when they overestimated the strength of their reserves, or they outright lied. We're not talking about Anglo Irish or Irish Nationwide here, Fianna Fail's private financiers, we're talking about the two largest financial institutions in the country threatening the government that without unilateral suport with public funds they faced total collapse within 24 hours due to a lack of liquidity whilst simultaneously erroneously portraying the strength of their assets through either criminal malice or criminal incompetence.

It was also interesting that RTE got such candid access to the parties involved, particularly Brian Lenihan, who seems to be focused on securing his future as Brian Cowen's replacement by adopting a mantra of "Based on the information I was provided at the time there was no alternative. If the decisions turn out to be wrong it is because the information I was given was wrong", in other words 'Its not my fault, the banks lied to me'. Unfortunately playing the ignorance card does't really work when you are the Minister for Finance, and its your job to know what is going on in the financial sector; its a bit like the police saying they had no idea that criminals were selling drugs, because every time they asked the criminals if they were they selling drugs, the criminals told them they weren't, and sure why would they lie?

The question must then be asked of the Minister if he deliberately looked no deeper, or if he was genuinely that incompetent?

The second part of the program is on tonight. While the whole thing is very much an exercise in 'Hindsight is 20/20', and we could have done with a lot more examinations like this by RTE at the time instead of an endless cavalcade of property shows and Eddie Hobbes, it makes for interesting viewing nonetheless.

Criminal malice on the part of the Government or criminal negligence, what a fantastic state of affairs for the nation to be in.

'Things' are be pretty bad for everyone, so.

Photo: Liffeytown @ The Ha'penny Bridge this morning, part of the Fringe

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