I've been watching The Sopranos box set for much of this year, and it's even better second time around, although I've been slightly concerned at how much of it I've forgotten since it began in the late '90s. Middle age is playing havoc with my brain cells. At this rate, I'll be able to watch it again in five years; it'll be like having a whole new TV series to look forward to.

The last episode I saw was from Season 5, and featured a nicely choreographed murder scene, in which somebody out buying toys for his grandchildren was shoved into the boot of a car, had plastic wrapping placed over his face and was shot twice in the head.

The character who fired the shots is called Phil Leotardo and is played in the series by Frank Vincent, who was for a few years during the economic boom the public face of Permanent TSB. At the time, there was a big battle between banks for current accounts and Vincent was employed to persuade people in a series of newspaper and tv advertisements to switch their business to Permanent TSB. His face has an uncanny ability to change from kindly to cruel in the blink of an eye, and this talent was exploited to great effect on his regular visits to Ireland. The message of the ad was clear: switch or you'll sleep with the fishes.

During the boom, the association of a mobster with a bank was greeted with ironic smiles, and the ads helped Permanent TSB win a marketing award for excellence in promoting themselves. They secured plenty of new business as well.

As I watched Leotardo do his gruesome business on The Sopranos the other night, it occurred to me that he was probably our first bankster, his two shots into the face of his victim a forerunner of what Irish banks, Permanent TSB included, were in the process of doing to the economy.

My next thought was that no bank would be brazen enough to run an ad campaign in the current circumstances associating itself with criminality. It's all friendly smiles and hugs these days. Just call in to your nearest branch and our permanently smiling staff will throw money at you and make you feel good to be alive. But, actually, such faith in their chastened self-awareness seems misplaced. Because even after all we have found out over the last few years, despite the banking guarantee, and Nama and the public humiliation of so many executives, banks continue to act like mobsters, playing the government for fools and making the rest of us offers we're apparently in no position to refuse.

The latest plot twist in The Supinos – a long-running saga of supine government behaviour during the banking crisis – concerns pay rises awarded to Anglo-Irish executives last year because – get this – they were working hard. An independent committee had recommended that Anglo's chairman be paid €158,000 and its board members receive €32,000, less than they were getting at the time. However, following discussions with Anglo, Finance minister Brian Lenihan not alone refused to cut the salaries to the recommended level but actually increased them, to €250,000 for Anglo's chairman, and to €73,000 for board members.

That, of course, is only a tiny part of the generosity shown by The Supinos to Irish banks which, Permanent TSB included, continue to benefit from the €450bn guarantee scheme of September 2008, but which have used the bailout to further gouge taxpayers. Despite the cuddly advertising, and the boasts about how much they're giving to small businesses and house purchasers, banks have had no real interest in lending at all. In recent weeks, they have further turned the screw on the taxpayer, increasing interest rates for existing borrowers and bringing extra layers of insecurity to the lives of thousands of people. Permanent TSB, its parent company under garda investigation for deposits of €7bn it made to Anglo in 2008, has raised its interest rates three times already this year.

The guarantee runs out on 29 September, the day the Dáil comes back from its elongated summer break. Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan has suggested that if it is extended, it should be on a quarterly basis, but an alternative view is that it should be allowed to lapse, or at least be modified to include some banks but not others, or to guarantee deposits but not debts. This might involve bank closures, and it would certainly bring pain to some creditors who lent to Irish banks during the so-called boom times, and who would see their money disappear. Such are the risks of capitalism, however. You have to think that Phil Leotardo would approve of such a brutal approach.

Seeing red: an easy way to stop animal attacks

One of the less remarked upon features of 2010 has been the number of members of what used to be called the animal kingdom who have refused to accept the limitations and expectations placed upon them by what used to be called humanity. In February, Tilikum, a 12,300lb bull whale being held captive at Seaworld Amusement park in Florida, where it was forced to do tricks for paying customers, killed one of its trainers. On Wednesday, a bull attacked members of an audience of 3,000 in Spain who had shown up to laugh and cheer as it was being taunted by men in funny costumes. I'm sure it was terribly traumatic for all the people concerned, but it's hard to avoid the conclusion that they deserved everything that came their way. Animals don't have general elections to rid themselves of their oppressors; they fight back in the only way they know how.