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Doddsson’s runaway locomotive

There is something strangely fascinating about the slow-motion train wreck that is Morgunblaðið, now that Davíð Oddsson has taken over as its editor in chief.

First, a whole lot of people cancelled their subscription to the paper following the announcement that Doddsson had been hired. The paper has declined to say just how many people cancelled [oddly enough – or should I say Doddly enough] but it has to run in the thousands. Everyone I know did, or at least everyone I’ve talked to about it – even people who have been staunch Independence Party supporters for years. Word has it that all the dosh they hoped to save by laying off those 30 people that were made to go when Doddsson arrived [and who probably did not share his political leanings] has been nullified by the mass exodus of subscribers.

Then, a few days ago, it was announced that four of Morgunblaðið’s best and most seasoned business journalists had resigned. No specific reason was given, and when the four were approached for more details they were deliberately vague. All denied that it had anything specifically to do with the new editor, but gave canned responses like, “well, you know, when there is a major change, it makes you take stock and examine your career and where you want to go …” blahblahblah.

So then last night, there was this news report on RÚV. It revolved around the fact that Baldur Guðlaugsson, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport [the rank just below that of Minister] was under investigation by the Office of the Special Prosecutor who leads the investigation into the bank collapse. At the time that the banks collapsed, Guðlaugsson was permanent secretary of the Ministry of Finance [the guy gets around] and also happened to be a shareholder in Landsbanki.

It made headlines at the time that Guðlaugsson had [with amazing foresight] sold his shares in Landsbanki just days before the bank went under. He has adamantly maintained that he sold the shares after reading about the precarious position of Landsbanki in the media, and that he had no insider knowledge that the bank was about to collapse.

The Special Investigator’s Office, on the other hand, is investigating why Guðlaugsson sold his shares a few days after accompanying the Minister of Business Affairs to London for a meeting with Alistair Darling and other British officials, in which they discussed the catastrophic position that Landsbanki was in, and whether this isn’t a plain old fashioned case of insider trading. Needless to say, the shares in Landsbanki became worthless the moment the bank collapsed.

But back to Doddsson and Morgunblaðið. Today’s DV claims that one of the abovementioned business reporters had prepared a news item about the Guðlaugsson affair one week before the news broke on RÚV, but that it was stopped by Doddsson. This, apparently, from a “reliable source”.

Oh, and I probably don’t need to tell you that Baldur Guðlaugsson is a member of the Independence Party’s tightest inner circle, and one of Davíð Oddsson’s closest friends, a group that calls itself Eimreiðin or “The Locomotive”.

This is the old guard who drove this country into the ground with their shady, corrupt dealings and endless cronyism, and frankly it’s kind of pathetic to watch them writhe in the glare of the spotlight while desperately trying to cover their tracks. On the other hand, it’s immensely satisfying to see them exposed in this way, and to see that the old subversion doesn’t work.

Like I said. The slow-mo crash of The Locomotive. You want to turn away, but you just can’t stop watching.

SHOWERS TODAY
And it’s set to get colder. Right now a cool 3°C [37F]. The sun came up at 8.25 and set at 5.58.

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  • Alexander E. October 19, 2009, 4:08 am

    drove this country into the ground with their shady, corrupt dealings and endless cronyism

    Sounds like you are talking about Russia or Zimbabwe 🙂

    The sun came up at 8.25 and set at 5.58.

    OMG! 5.58! I thought it was so dark because of clouds. But it’s really dark so early now. That’s really bad…. 🙁

  • NWO October 19, 2009, 4:23 am

    Hopefully justice will prevail… even if it’s excruciatingly slow. Thanks for your wonderful narratives!

  • Great Eastern October 19, 2009, 7:21 am

    Interesting. But you know what? Given the circumstances and if I still lived in Iceland I would vote for fat, rotten and ugly conservatives.

    Why? Because democracy is more often than not a list of candidates which reads “bad, bad, bad, not so bad, bad, …,…,…”

    Saying that an average icelandic voter is responsible for lavish style of living in the recent years is just ridiculous. Sorry for my disbelieve in a higher power of collective wisdom but democracy does not guarantee a ship will not hit an iceberg.

    Please note what Iceland experienced is by far not unique.
    I remember too well banksters ( one letter should be “g” actually) calculating Baltic states indicators and pointing out that “these are not yet indebted as much % of GDP as their Western counterparts” meaning “there is an enormous room for growth”, please, please come investors.
    I am sure the same was going on in South East Europe and in many other countries including UK, Ireland.

    The elite of those small countries submitted just too joyfully to this credit party cause it presented unseen possibilities of “entrepreneurship”: build something, sell it at inflated price and go away with money. When party is over a paycheck time came. At that point Swedish desperate pressure on Latvia is exemplary: you must obey to social cuttings (somewhere in a range of 15% salaries cut, etc) just in order to get IMF loan and our loan as well.
    Doesn’t it sound familiar? The tone is quite different from the recent years when Swedish capital take a journey into Baltics and Ukraine and was enjoying unprecedented profits.

    Summarizing it all what one can tell? Neocons have so much in common with free and liberal as commies had with social equality.
    Does it mean conservatism and capitalism is a dead end? I doubt it very much 🙂
    I remember too well year 2000 and my fellow icelanders rightfully criticizing states over control and putting Denmark as an example. Dodd’s locomotive was not such a bad idea at the time. Just like for many ideas the implemmentation matters. I.e. giving state property into the hands of “good friends” has nothing to do with modernization of economy.

  • kevin o'connor waterford Ireland October 19, 2009, 9:06 am

    For sale one David Oddsson slightly used and much abused, Has proven capability to take down entire countries banking system, nay economy ,is now doing same to leading Icelandic Publication. Export restrictions apply, no terrorist states seeking weapons of mass destruction may bid for sale item (That means you Iran,Cuba,North Korea etc).Payment must be in Euros. Icelandic krona not accepted.

    However Tory party in UK plc, would love to have to Take out Gordon Brown and NuLabour.!!!

  • James October 19, 2009, 9:36 am

    2010 Court Transcript: “Your honour, I must have been listening to my new iPod when Darling mentioned a bank was about to collapse or whatever it was. I clearly remember that I had downloaded The Beatles’ complete collection from iTunes that morning and submit my credit card statement as evidence. It is therefore ridiculous to suggest that I could have possibly gained any insider knowledge whatsoever. And, for the avoidance of doubt, note that my title of permanent secretary was purely honorary; I obviously didn’t know any more about my job than the general public could read in newspapers.”

    Maybe The Locomotive is going off the rails because there aren’t any train tracks in Iceland…

  • Great Eastern October 19, 2009, 11:27 am

    Sorry I forgot to put something of an optimistic note.

    You know what? Icelandic locomotive is now returning to a normal tracks. Krona depreciated?
    Well, but now you are going to earn more or less the same as most of western working class. Which is around 2000 euros a month.
    You still have a very healthy birth ratio. You can not expect fish or finances ( all of them are f-word ) to provide you with the same living standard as before. More mouths means less fish or finance per soul.
    Prices will be inflated but one has to pay for geographical isolation after all… On the bright side you enjoy cheap energy and clean air with water which is a lot. Most of icelanders tend to forget that and they look into being “world’s best” instead.
    This exaggerated optimism (Ísland er best í heimi ) is probably the worst thing done to the nation during David´s reign. Now it is time to realistic optimism and you do have a basis for that.
    Thinking about icesave debacle you can look into it as a rather costly credit Iceland seems to be in need. You can not live under currency restrictions, it must be killing your companies trying to do anything outside of fishing and providing for daily needs (which ironically converges into giants as Bónus…)
    In short, stay positive.

  • Silvia Planchett October 19, 2009, 9:58 pm

    Does anyone know if there are actual Icelandic laws that prohibit the transactions that have been going on the last couple of years? These laws must be very vague if they exist, how else could you have such a group of folks doing what they have been doing with the knowledge of their attorneys and accountants. These shenanigans were at the very least against the spirit if not the letter of the law!

  • Bromley86 October 19, 2009, 10:31 pm

    Out of interest, where are those who stood up for the rule of law when all others were silent? I’m thinking particularly of the IP chap in charge of the privatisation of the banks who quit in disgust at the nepotistic process.

    Surely he’s the sort of person that the independent, IP Icelanders need? If people like him don’t step up, then as my friend Fisy said over on Icenews:

    “Stick around, because some people with a back bone are soon to make the government, as it has been always before.”

    (feel the unintentional irony 🙂 )

  • idunn October 19, 2009, 11:45 pm

    Common practice in the USA are non-disclosure agreements for those leaving (for whatever reason), if they want any money in walking out the door. The reporters with Morgunblaðið might fall in the same category.

    Not to unduly inflate you, but if the citizens of Iceland are losing Morgunblaðið as a respected journal, they, and the world, have at last gained your report. There is perhaps more than a little irony, and justice, in that.

  • Jim Saunders October 20, 2009, 4:17 pm

    With around thirty journalists laid off and another four business reporters resigning, isn’t there a big enough pool of talent out there to create a NEW national newspaper online?

    It wouldn’t cost much to buy the hosting and domain name.

    I could imagine it giving the Morgun a run for its money if done properly.

  • Knute Rife October 24, 2009, 1:12 pm

    Great Eastern,

    The small country elites drank the Kool-Aid given them by large country elites (especially in the US and UK), which have been driving this bus for nearly 30 years through a combination of neocon foreign policy (Project for the New American Century) and neolib economics (Austro-Chicago mumbo jumbo). Now they’ve driven it off a cliff. The latest UK GDP figures show it. France and Germany, which have seen that a real economy needs to produce something and have stepped back from the FIRE (finance, insurance, and real estate) brink, are showing signs recovering, while the UK and the US, determined to maintain FIRE economies, aren’t.

    Voting for conservatives? Reagan and Thatcher got this toxic snowball rolling. You want more?

    As for 2000, that was the year the US showed the world that the model for Dodd’s locomotive was indeed a bad idea as the Dot Com Boom turned into a bomb. But that was forgotten with the next bubble.