Did Shane Ross forget?

Last night I was trawling newspaper archives for information on the four Anglo names. I have already posted on Seamus Ross and Jerry Conlan. While searching for information on Gerry Gannon I came across this gem from the Sunday Independent from April 2008.

A GROUP of clients of Anglo Irish Banks, including big builders and entrepreneurs, plan to set up a large investment fund to buy shares in the troubled bank.

A meeting took place in a Dublin hotel recently in which it was decided to buy shares worth up to €500m. Gerry Gannon of Gannon Homes and Sean Quinn are thought to have been targeted to join the consortium. Quinn is already a large shareholder.

Sources close to the group suggest that each member will be asked to put in several million euro. When the fund reaches €500m, it will be leveraged up with borrowings to buy further Anglo shares.

Supporters of Anglo are convinced that there are still scores of big investors who will be forced to buy back stock as a result of short selling.

Senator Ross continues:

Some of the consortium are incensed by the recent short selling of Anglo shares by stockbrokers in Dublin and London and are determined to punish the offending brokers.

Last night one member told the Sunday Independent: “We are going to teach the brokers and hedge funds that damaged the bank a salutary lesson. It is our bank, it has an entrepreneurial culture. They will come out of this with their fingers burned.”

Shares in Anglo have tanked in recent weeks, due largely to short selling. They plunged from a 12-month high of €17.53 to below €7 at one point.

The Financial Regulator has launched an investigation into dealings in the stock, especially around the St Patrick’s Day holiday when the shares were assaulted by sellers.

Anglo has bankrolled some of the State’s most successful entrepreneurs, from developer Bernard McNamara to Richard Nesbitt’s Arnotts and Mick Bailey of Bovale.

So Senator Ross knows at least one of the Anglo 10? And he knew about it two months before the operation took place? Would Mr Ross like to tell us more about the details, and the name of the person who spoke to him?

The Property Pin discussed it here at the time.

Update: The plot just got a little thicker. It was pointed out on a forum that Cowen’s infamous private dinner with Anglo Irish executives occurred around the same time. In fact, Cowen met with Anglo executives on Thursday April 24. Ross’s article was published on Sunday April 27.

Was Cowen told anything about this? Were the two meetings in fact the same meeting? Was Cowen made aware of discussions between Anglo investors?

From the article last week reporting the meeting:

But as the Taoiseach came under renewed pressure to name the ‘golden circle’ fresh details emerged of his cosy relationship with the beleaguered bank’s top brass.

Mr Cowen dined privately with Anglo Irish Bank directors at a Dublin hotel just weeks after he had been warned of a dangerous position with the bank’s shares that threatened the entire Irish financial system.

Mr Cowen was Finance Minister at the time and was told only weeks before about problems at the bank with the shareholding of multi-millionaire businessman, Sean Quinn.

He met the Anglo bankers on the night of April 24 last when he was already Taoiseach-in-waiting and when his close friend, Fintan Drury, was a member of Anglo’s board, chairing its risks and compliance committee.

The occasion was not an official public engagement, and no briefing note or formal speech was prepared by officials for the then Finance Minister.

A government spokesman insisted last night: “Private meetings are common between finance ministers and banks across the board.”

Media strategies

Something important happened yesterday. The Sunday Tribune published reams of information on the Anglo Irish debacle. Even if they published 20% of what the did, it still would have meant the biggest story of the past month at least.

What it looks like to me is a newsdump – while everyone is distracted with the names of the Anglo 10, and another Sunday paper published the names of four others, the Tribune published tonnes of important details. The intent is that the news agenda will move on quickly – and it seems to have worked.

Monday’s Irish Times barely mentions the revelations in the Tribune. Nor does it name any of the Anglo 10. The same will likely be true of all the papers.

So what now? The details in the Tribune should not be let drop from the news cycle. If true, the details lay bare the wholescale corruption involved in the banking and regulatory systems. We must continue to dig into this story.

Jerry Conlan

Harlequin/Mount Carmel

Jerry Conlan is a Naas-based developer involved with a company formerly known as Harlequin Healthcare. The company owns and runs St Joseph’s private hospital in Sligo. In 2004 the firm competed with another company to build a private hospital in Waterford.

As of June 2006 Mr Conlan was chairman of Harlequin. The company also plans to build a €25m hospital development in Naas. It also owns Aut Evan hospital in Kilkenny.

The Sunday Times reports:

Conlan is the least well-known of the four. He sold 400 acres of land he co-owned in Naas, Co Kildare, known as Millennium Park, for €340m. He used much of the proceeds to found the Mount Carmel Medical Group which owns a maternity hospital in Rathfarnham, south Dublin. Mount Carmel has been appointed by the Health Service Executive to build private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals as part of the co-location strategy.

In July 2006, Harlequin bought Mount Carmel hospital for a sum believed to be more than €50m. After the purchase Harlequin changed its name to Mount Carmel Medical Group. At the time, it was reported:

“The company yesterday said that it would expand the hospital’s maternity unit and operating theatres. It will also introduce new non-invasive diagnostic techniques for detecting heart disease. A spokesman said yesterday that Harlequin does not intend to use any part of Mount Carmel’s grounds for developments such as residential or commercial building, and would focus its investment on the hospital.”

On December 4, 2008, it was reported that Mount Carmel Medical Group submitted a planning application to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to redevelop Mount Carmel Hospital. The plans included demolishing the maternity hospital and building a new six-storey one.

Also part of the proposal was the residential development of 40 houses and apartments on the five-acre site at Braemor Park.

Conlan also made his name in the contract catering business in Dublin and has interests in hotels and golf courses. He owns the Central Hotel on Great George’s St.

A Catholic, he is a member of the Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, dedicated to the defence of the Christian faith. Members are expected to pray daily and to remain faithful to their marriage vows.

Pat Conlan

Jerry’s brother Pat Conlan launched the Amethyst property fund with AIB in September 2007. The fund was to invest €120m in commercial property in Germany. AIB hoped to raise €40m from investors and add €80m in debt. Conlan, an accountant, himself invested €3m.

Seamus Ross

Liam Lawlor

In 1998 – Seamus Ross told the Mahon Tribunal in 2003 – Liam Lawlor “plagued” him for money. After a day at the races at Fairyhouse, Mr Lawlor asked Mr Ross if had any money. Mr Ross told him he had “a few pounds in the house” and later gave him £5,000 in cash.

Afterwards he said he was angry, and made up his mind to end “this carry-on”. “I was angry with Liam Lawlor,” he said. Shortly after, Mr Lawlor came back again for money but Mr Ross ordered him out of the office. He later felt sorry for him and gave him a discount on a house. Mr Ross told the Mahon Tribunal he sold Mr Lawlor a £100,000 house for £80,000. He also furnished it at a cost of £5,000. Mr Lawlor’s daughter moved into the house.

The next year, Mr Lawlor started legal proceedings against Mr Ross claiming he held a 20% stake of one of Mr Ross’s companies.

Seamus Ross bought the remaining houses and land owned by the Guinness family on the edge of the Phoenix Park in July 2000. He paid £25m for 28 acres. In the late 1990s he was building 700-800 houses a year, including sites in Clonee, Celbridge and Drogheda.

In November 2001, Liam Lawlor TD claimed in a Supreme Court action that he had a 20% stake in the Menolly firm that bought the “Guinness lands” development at Phoenix park. The land had been bought by Seamus Ross through his company Menolly Homes Ltd. Mr Lawlor claimed that before March 1997, he and a Mr Peter Dwyer were developing lands at Phibblestown, Castaheany and Allendale areas of Dublin for residential purposes.

With a view to developing these lands – as well as “the Guinness lands” – it was decided that he and Mr Dwyer would cooperate with Mr Ross and Menolly Properties, he claimed. The TD’s case was that Mr Ross and his companies were developing lands in the area which Mr Ross had bought, and that it was decided to proceed by way of joint venture. Mr Lawlor alleged the shareholding in the corporate body to be formed was 20% to him and 40% each to Mr Ross and Mr Dwyer.

Mr Justice Fennelly dismissed Mr Lawlor’s claim. He said the “fatal flaw” in Mr Lawlor’s claim was clear evidence that an integral part of the March 1997 agreements was the question of how the venture was to be financed. It was left over for discussion at a later date. In those circumstances, the judge found there was no concluded contract and dismissed Mr Lawlor’s appeal.

On October 8, 2003, Seamus Ross told the Mahon Tribunal (PDF (Q137)) that he paid Liam Lawlor TD over £40,000 to get the postal address of a housing estate changed from Clondalkin to Lucan.

Mr Ross estimated the change allegedly arranged by Mr Lawlor was worth £5,000 a house to him, or a total of £2.5m. He said the payments were not political contributions.

Mr Lawlor offered to provide an invoice to Mr Ross, the following day he gave Mr Ross an invoice in the name of Baltic Timber Products for an amount of £20,002.79 (the second tranche). This was done “to make it look official”. Mr Lawlor lodged the money in a London bank account.

Guinness/Farmleigh development

In March 2004, “Dublin’s most prolific builder” according to the Irish Times was given permission to build 85 houses and 190 apartments in a parkland settings across the road from Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park.

In what was described as “a most unusual move”, An Bord Pleanala overruled both Fingal County Council and its own inspector to grant permission for the development.

The previous October, Fingal County Council refused permission for the entire scheme on the grounds that it materially contravened the development plan objective of two units per hectare, a leftover from the last development plan.

After securing the planning permission, Mr Ross and his advisors threw an impromptu party at the K Club to celebrate. The Times reported on March 25, 2004 that the decision to overrule Fingal council planners and an Bord Pleanala’s own inspector had “taken everyone by surprise – except Ross and his advisers, architect Richard Doorly, town planner Shay Fenton, Brendan Byrne of Sherry Fitzgerald.”

It was estimated at the time that after paying €31m for the land in the 2001, he would net €200m from the sale of the homes.

Baldoyle

In June 2004, Menolly Homes paid €95m for a 50% stake in Baldoyle’s racecourse. About 4,000 homes were planned for the site, and an adjoining 100 acre site in Portmarnock. It was to be built on a joint venture basis by Ballymore Properties and Menolly Homes.

The two landbanks had been owned by Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Properties for about a decade. The landbank straddles the north fringe of lands owned by Gerry Gannon and Shannon Homes, where 7,000 units were planned.

CNG Travel

In June 2004 it was reported that CNG Travel, based in Kenmare, had a loss of €1.23m in 2003. The Menolly group held a 29.9% stake in the company at the time. Seamus Ross’s son, Seamus Jnr, was a director of the company. Dr Michael Smurfit joined the board of CNG several weeks before the company was floated.

In June 2005, the boss of CNG, Finbarr Power, resigned from the company. It had been revealed that Mr Power had already been suspended by the company after he had expressed interest in buying CNG’s leisure business, US firm Places to Stay.

Dunboyne Castle

In August 2006, a proposal by Mr Ross to build a neighbourhood centre at Dunboyne Castle in Co Meath was rejected by An Bord Pleanala. It was looking to build the centre to cater for the eventual 540 units being developed on the grounds of the castle. Menolly also owns the €40m Dunboyne Castle hotel and spa complex.

The group also owns the Dylan Hotel on Upper Baggot Street.

Predictions

In November 2006, at the peak of the property market, Mr Ross was asked what he predicted for 2007:

“A reduction in the number of new units being built. Prices will continue to rise, driven by demand and lack of supply.”

At what stage will higher interest rates affect the market? “I cannot see much effect in the next 12 months. It is an election year, incentives are promised by all the major parties and there is a strong likelihood of changes being made by government to curb the effect of an increase in rates. I recommend that young people take interest-only mortgages to buy their houses and not worry about the principal. Their salaries will increase and dilute the cost of the house over a next of years.”

Can demand for new homes and offices be sustained? “The jobs being created over the last few years by companies like Intel, Wyyat, Pepsi, Google and Sean Quinn Direct will lead to higher demand for new homes and offices. The rise in population and the problems within the planning system affecting supply will also help to sustain the demand.”

What will be the effects of tighter lending by the banks? “It is more responsible lending, making sure people are not exposing themselves to the risk of not being able to pay high mortgages.”

Prediction for 2007? “Fianna Fail returning to government hopefully with the Progressive Democrats. Longford to win the Leinster Championship and Meath to win the All Ireland.”

London

In January 2007, the Menolly Group bought 107 Cheapside from the Carlisle Group for €225m. It also involved the purchase of an adjoining mixed-use building at 2 Honey Lane for €18m. At the time of the purchase the group, Menolly Investments, had assets valued at over €400m, mainly in the UK.

The Anglo connection

Ross began rapidly expanding his business around 1996. In 1997 Menolly took out six mortgages with Anglo Irish Bank. In June 1997, total bank borrowings amounted to £27.9m and stock of £28.7m, more than double the stock figure of previous years.

In 2000 Menolly had a turnover of £66.7m. In 2002 the figure jumped to €157.38m. Pre-tax profits were £6.3m in 2000, and £27.56m in 2002.

Accounts from 2002 show the group having accumulated profits of €53.7m, a year during which the group sold houses and residential property worth €156.8m. The group had loans of €41m in 2002, down from €78m a year earlier. The group’s main bank is Anglo Irish Bank.

The K Club

In 2005 Menolly was building the 83 luxury houses and apartments at the K Club. Residents were promised grandstand views of the Ryder Cup. In September 2006 it was revealed that Menolly had offered 26 members of South Dublin County Council free tickets to the prestigious golf tournament, the Irish branch of Transparency International urged all public representatives not to accept such corporate gifts.

Minister were reminded not to accept corporate invitations to attend the Ryder Cup.

Private wealth

The Irish Times reported in October 2007 that his mode of transport is helicopter and Hawker private jet, which was believed to be undergoing an upgrade to transatlantic capability. Mr Ross’s son took over the running of Menolly. Mr Ross lives at Barberstown House in Clondalkin.

His circle of friends, Jimmy Flynn, John Mahon and Oliver Bardon have been dubbed the “Longford Mafia”.

Big profits have enabled him to indulge in a passion for horses shared by many of his peers. He’s apparently more of an acquirer than a seller of bloodstock, owning horses such as Talking Cents, Pantarez and Ross Moff, while he’s also co-owned a horse with Tom Bailey of Bovale.

His horses and jockeys wear silks in the colours of the home town Father Manning Gaels GAA club in Drumlish.

His political friends include the Lenihan brothers – he can pick up the phone to Brian, his local TD, and Conor – and his political colours are overt.

Ross went to Dublin after serving time as a carpenter, with his friend and fellow north Longfordman, Mick Whelan (of Maple Homes). The two set up Drumlish homes in the 1970s and after a slump, Whelan went to London as a carpenter and by the 1980s, Ross married Whelan’s sister, Moira.

At one point Ross and Whelan set up Sean Dunne in business, in a company called DCD.

According to company filings, Menolly Homes, one of the Menolly companies, has a significant banking relationship with Anglo Irish Bank, which has taken out charges over its properties and book debts. An earlier relationship was formed with Ulster Bank, which has also taken out a charge on Dublin lands owned by the company. Virtually all the recent charges over acreages owned by Menolly have been lodged by either Anglo or Ulster Bank.

Unlimited company

In 2004, Mr Ross converted Menolly into an unlimited company, following the example of Treasury Holdings, Liam Carroll and Castlethorn Construction among others.

The decision meant Menolly Homes’ performance was no longer be open to public scrutiny and that, if the firm goes into liquidation, the directors will have to meet the business debts personally.

4 names revealed

The Sunday Times have revealed 4 names they believe are part of the Golden Circle at Anglo Irish:

Four of the 10-strong group of investors assembled by David Drumm, Anglo Irish’s former chief executive, are: Gerry Gannon, Joe O’Reilly, Seamus Ross and Jerry Conlan. Either they or some of their companies now owe several billion to Anglo. All four declined to comment last week.

Those four are named directly with another two appearing to be named indirectly:

Patrick Kearney and John McCabe

Anglo revelations

The crash just got crashier. From today’s Tribune:

* At a meeting in September Willie McAteer, Anglo finance director, told the head of the Financial Regulator Patrick Neary the bank would be “managing” its balance sheet, to which Neary is recorded as replying, “Fair play to you, Willie.”

* A phone call records officials from Anglo Irish Bank telling staff at the Financial Regulator in October that the bank is “manipulating” its balance sheet. “It is not a real number,” the Anglo staff member is recorded as telling the regulator.

* Anglo auditors Ernst & Young told the bank there was no need to include reference to the transactions in documents sent to shareholders in December, saying only information already in the public domain should be included.

* Anglo assisted Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P) coming up to the building society’s half-year ending 30 June by engaging in transactions that reduced IL&P’s reliance on emergency funds from the European Central Bank.

* Anglo has entered into “reciprocal arrangements” to bolster balance sheets with a range of international financial institutions in the past, including Royal Bank of Scotland, AIG and Hypo Real Estate.

* Anglo received requests in the last six months for “balance sheet management” transactions from Lehman Brothers, ABN and
West LB.

* AIB and Bank of Ireland provided Anglo Irish with €6bn of funding on 23 January at the “behest” of the Central Bank

* In September, Anglo was hit by major deposit withdrawals by State Street and AIB Investment Managers.

* At a meeting between officials from IL&P, the Central Bank and the Financial Regulator (FR) in January, Mary O’Dea, consumer director of the FR, “rounded” on IL&P and in an aggressive manner asked, “Why did you do this?” IL&P were concerned about O’Dea’s reaction and raised it at the Department of Finance

Ireland will need an EU bailout by the summer. What strikes me about the Tribune coverage today is that there is so much of it. In other words, it’s a newsdump of stories, all of them as bad as each other. If these stories were dripfed over a week it would have made page one on every single day.

Anglo Irish Bank report and PwC report

The report is out. Download it here. (Hover, or right click and save as..)

Update: The PwC report was published at 9.20pm. Here it is.

First impressions: It’s 44 pages long. Wasn’t this report over 700 pages? Seems as though they were busy cutting the best bits.

On Page 26 we get this:

The Bank has a number of very large exposures with approximately 15 relationships in excess of €500 million. The size of these exposures increases the risk profile of the Bank. However, the Bank considers that in all cases they are supported by diverse portfolios of assets underpinned by material contractual cashflows and with significant personal/corporate recourse.

The explanation of the lack of pages:

The vast bulk of the PwC Reports was a description of customers’ loan exposures, none of which is included in this Summary Report. The descriptions of customers included a summary of various loans, partnerships, underlying assets, security etc.

Another interesting new bit, I was not aware of:

Banking Book Assets (Available-for-sale financial assets) includes RMBS’s, ABS’s, CDO’s totalling €1.9 billion which are difficult to value and probably illiquid in the current market.

So they have CDO-type assets worth next to nothing?

It seems there was a run on the bank:

As of 27 September 2008, Anglo was forecasting net negative cash of €12.0 billion by 17 October 2008. The principal reason is a €10 billion reduction in corporate and retail deposits consistent with recent deterioration. There has been a €5 billion deterioration in corporate deposits and €440 million deterioration in retail deposits in the last week. The projections assume completion of a securitisation of part of the loan book for €2.2 billion and successful bidding for ECB funds.

This juicy bit:

In our Phase II report we commented that there were large exposures to a number of developers with residential land banks and development sites which are geographically close in South Dublin and Wicklow. Our work on Phase III has highlighted the fact that this concentration of exposure also applies in the next 50 largest land and development loans.

Taking both phases of our work into account there is currently a large over-hang of unsold higher density residential units in these areas accounting for a number of years supply and on top of this there are sites without planning permission in relation to which developers are hoping applications will be processed when local authority infrastructure and planning issues are resolved. Successful disposal of the current and ‘pipeline’ stock will take many years and appear unlikely to occur at current unit price levels. There are likely to be significant losses for individual developers and in turn the Bank as a result.

In other words, all of the money that was spent on buying the land and building the houses is gone, and will never return. The developers will never make a profit on it. The developers involved will be bankrupted by this. Anglo lended recklessly.

Ulick McEvaddy has no idea

Or maybe he does, but has started spinning. His interview on Pat Kenny amounts to an opening salvo in what might be a PR campaign to prepare the ground for the eventual naming of the Anglo 10 (or 20).

There may have been a realisation that the names will have to be released, and now certain persons will be rolled out to try and create some positive sentiment. Unfortunately for Ulick, and the Anglo gamblers, the public are not to be fooled. And judging by the reaction to Ulick, we could be in for a hell of a ride.

As for the views expressed by Ulick about the property market and the golden circle, he is clearly vested in this. His views amount to denial about what exactly the Celtic Tiger was (not what we thought), and therefore his solutions amount to utter nonsense. I really don’t know what planet Ulick is on, but to express to views he has, he either has an agenda, is an idiot, or is insane. Or all three.

So outlandish are his suggestions that they do not merit reaction.

The Anglo Irish 10

Update: The confirmed so far list is:

Paddy McKillen
Gerry Gannon
Jerry Conlan
Joe O’Reilly
Seamus Ross
John McCabe, builder.
Patrick Kearney, developer.
Paddy Mc Killen, investor.
Brian O’Farrell, developer and auctioneer.
Gerry Maguire, developer.
Sean Reilly, builder.

If I were inclined to discover who the people behind the €300m loan and investment in Anglo Irish shares were, I would take a close look at the books.

It is highly likely that anyone involved in this tight inner circle were well connected, and would have perhaps been approached by Sean FitzPatrick himself, that is, people he knew or was friends with. The Independent articles from a few weeks ago points to a who’s who of Irish developers, any number of whom could be on the list, emphasis mine:

A cursory examination of the names held in the filing cabinets at Anglo’s headquarters in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green reads like a who’s who of the heroes of Ireland’s boom years. Many of the individuals with whom Sean FitzPatrick built business and personal relationships will be well known to the Minister for Finance already — and to his predecessor in the office, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, given the close ties between the building industry and Fianna Fail over the years.

Sean Mulryan, Bernard McNamara, Johnny Ronan, Gerry Gannon and Seamus Ross represent just five heavyweight developers — and acknowledged Fianna Fail supporters — on Anglo’s loan books.

Other big names less readily associated with the Governing political party include former Revenue official turned property dealmaker, Derek Quinlan, developer Paddy Kelly, aviation entrepreneur Ulick McEvaddy, and Riverdance creators, John McColgan and Moya Doherty.

Scattered among this streak of Celtic tigers are billions of euro loaned by Anglo Irish Bank over the past decade in a calculated play for lucrative returns.

Indeed, in the case of Sean Mulryan alone, Anglo is understood to have extended loan facilities to the tune of €1bn to finance the Ballymore Properties chief’s ventures in Ireland and in the East End of London.

Bernard McNamara is another major developer with hundreds of millions of euro in borrowings through Anglo on developments both here and in the UK.

Arguably the most high profile of the Clare-born builder’s plans, where Anglo Irish Bank money is involved, is the former Irish Glass Bottles site in Dublin’s Ringsend.

Here, McNamara has a 41 per cent stake in a tri-party consortium along with Derek Quinlan’s Quinlan Private and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

Of course I don’t know if any of these people were involved, but at least some of them would have likely been approached given their relationship with FitzPatrick.

There was more indications today (February 19). The Indo ran with a story about a dinner held in April with Anglo execs, including this nugget:

Mr Cowen was Finance Minister at the time and was told only weeks before about problems at the bank with the shareholding of multi-millionaire businessman, Sean Quinn.

He met the Anglo bankers on the night of April 24 last when he was already Taoiseach-in-waiting and when his close friend, Fintan Drury, was a member of Anglo’s board, chairing its risks and compliance committee.

The plot thickens. The Government is making a massive error by not going public with all the names as soon as possible. From a PR point of view it is almost suicidal. The truth will out eventually, and the way things are being handled it could easily bring down the Government.

Update: The confirmed so far list is:

Paddy McKillen
Gerry Gannon
Jerry Conlan
Joe O’Reilly
Seamus Ross

Milestones

Two milestones this week.

Firstly the blog I started in mid 2005, originally named Irish Corruption and later renamed Public Inquiry, is a finalist in the Best Political Blog category at the Irish Blog awards. I blogged on there consistently for the first year or so before handing the reins over to my uncle Anthony. He has over the past 2 years stepped up his blogging and deserves full credit for getting on the shortlist. To say I am immensely proud of him is an understatement. He certainly deserves credit for the work he puts in.

Secondly, my own blog passed the 1.5 million visitor mark yesterday, a significant milestone for any blog. I obviously thank all of my readers over the years, those who drifted in and indeed drifted out, and those who for some reason have kept coming back over the years. Understandably I did not make the short list for the blog awards, probably mainly due to my consistent lack of writing over the past year. The lazy way out is always to post photos and videos!

But here is to the next 1.5 million!

Update: A big thank you to Steve Clemons for the shout out. If you are not subscribing to his excellent blog already then head on over there. It is one of the best.