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A Good List . . . of "15 Good Things to Celebrate in a Bad Year"

Posted on January 3, 2011 at 6:12 AM

Ah, yes:  the year of 2010.  How can we say it:  so much to do, so much stupidity, and so much ennui. 

 

I have written in the past my own compilations of this sort, but Ms. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and the Global Exchange, has done a fair job, in my opinion, in her article, posted at Michael Moore's website under "Open Mike."

 

It is hard to argue that these 15 items are bad, overall, in a world only growing smaller and more co-dependent. Recommending this to any readers that stroll my way:

 

15 Good Things to Celebrate in a Bad Year | MichaelMoore.com

http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/15-Good-Things

Open access to law-related films online & the needs of global attorneys

Posted on November 30, 2010 at 2:36 PM

Subject:  The International Bar Association has, at its website, open access to several interview films on topics of interest to international attorneys.  I think this is great.  Open access to law-related information of special interest to attorneys means that the information is surely spread further - to those in the legal profession who cannot afford the cost of online 'webinars' and courses, and to those who cannot even afford the cost of professional association membership.  Here is a link to their page of interviews concerning international human rights, with one recent interview, with law professor Fu Hualing, on present related legal issues of concern in China: http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=4dcfb472-ae82-4bf7-8e01-654115ac751c#human .

 

It's just as good a time as any to expand on this point.

 

Many lawyers are struggling in this global economic climate, while coming from countries with mixed affordability standards.  Open access to legal webinars and informational/ educational interviews is a sign that the profession is sufficiently open to provide what can also be seen as globalizing - and harmonizing - services.  Informational and educational materials available with free access help international attorneys to foster and continue their work for 'the rule of law' in the world, work which is more critical now than at any other time in our history.

 

Cash-poor attorneys of the  . . . western world

One way in which the effect of lawyer's financial constraints has been seen is in the American Bar Association's revised membership payment structure, still not low enough for me to afford to belong.  Another is to provide for a small amount of professional development coursework which can be taken online - either free or at very affordable rates - so that attorneys can successfully maintain their required continuing legal education.  This effort, in Illinois, resulted in what might be called a 'last-minute' offer of suffiicient hours of instruction online - to meet a summer deadline for specific CLE hours.  This is an offer I am guessing that hundreds took.

 

Let's go a bit further. 

More should be done to lower the cost of annual attorney registrations.  In Illinois, for instance, the cost of maintaining an active attorney registration is upwards of $300 per year, even if one is practicing only a small portion of time.  I don't think I am stretching it to suggest that this is a cost many part-time working attorneys marginally afford.  The cost of registration covers attorney misconduct work, and so is used to assure that professional standards of conduct are maintained.  However, the cost might be more fairly distributed, reflecting in some way the amount of attorney work conducted by the attorney needing to maintain an active license.

 

I applaud the IBA on their movement to provide online access to significant law-related films and materials irregardless of IBA membership, and urge the American Bar Association to do more of the same. 

 

Let's create an affordable structure for lawyers to (1) practice law, and (2) continue their legal education, both online and offline - even when they are without the financial means to pay.  Period.

 

Yes, It's Better 'Over Here'

Posted on October 18, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Subject:  "Social Democracy," such as that found in Germany, Norway and other western European nations

Take:  Passing on a link to a recent article by Katha Politt, writing for The Nation magazine, in the September 20, 2010 issue, with a wistful sigh

 

I don't often stop and blog purely on the basis of finding a single article I would like to share, but Katha's simple and down-to-earth comment on the value of social democracy is one I couldn't agree with more.  When I am headed to the U.S., I brace myself, not because of the security queuing, but because when I get there, I will find the most helpful and customer friendly people in the world, working hard to make not-enough-money to live on or get ahead.  I will see the destitute ignored, struggling to walk the public sidewalks, falling down and wandering in streets, cars jockeying to avoid them.  I will usually see, within one day, someone in a car give someone else in a car the finger.  I will look with sadness at the dismal hell that has become America for many - and they are decent people - people who need that long-lost safety net for social services and interventions, in particular, those of a health and medical variety, besides needing jobs, respect, honor and companionship.

 

I've been reading The Nation most of my adult life, and Katha Politt, a regular contributor, has always been a guaranteed voice of sanity and curious investigation.  This article examines and compares the German social democracy and life in New York and the U.S. http://www.thenation.com/article/154477/its-better-over-there .  It's entitled "It's Better Over There."  I live near Germany, in Norway, and, despite the coldness - of every type, I have to sadly agree.  I only wish it were not true, but at least for now, I have to say, "It's better over here."  I also can't help but feel that a revolution is coming, one in which the continuing distance between the American haves and have-nots must be bridged - with sensitivity and respect for all.

Additional Voices Criticize Hardanger Fjord Power line Plan

Posted on July 26, 2010 at 2:01 AM

This is an update of my earlier discussion of this issue, which is coming to the forefront again now in Norway, despite having been on the back burner since as long ago as 2005-6. The latest opinions concerning the project are shared best in the Norwegian newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv (Today’s Business News), on Saturday, July 24, 2010 (archive not free, in Norwegian). I will do a bit of translating to communicate some of the details shared, with some remarks in brackets:

 

Several experts believe government authorities have done a too-bad job in exploring alternatives to the power lines at issue. One of these is Einar Hope of Norway’s Business College. To begin with, the Energy Minister has said that Statnett has no obligation to explore alternative resolutions as thoroughly as the chosen alternative. [In the U.S., this would have required an environmental impact statement, as well as a public hearing, which would have forced the authorities to examine both the environmental and economic costs of the project before further planning of any specific solution.] Einar Hope mentions the fact that the government has not developed the gas power alternative available in the North Sea, for its reserve capacity. Gas turbines already exist in this location and could be turned on again, but that they then come into conflict with power-hungry industry already in this geographic area.

 

A likely solution would be to couple the power grid to the aluminum industry in Karmøy and Husnes. Wind power generators already planned for the North Sea could also be coupled in to that net. This would create a north-south line, attaching the Bergen area to the power market in Europe, the European power grid, which is desirable for many reasons. [Much of the population of Norway lives in the Oslo area and is on the Europe power grid, from which we usually are sourcing power in mid-late winter, when hydro-power supplies in Norway are occasionally diminished.]

 

Other comments are noted by Ståle Navrud, who agrees with Hope. He is a professor with the Institute of Economy and Resource Management at the University for Environmental and Biological Sciences in Norway. Navrud points to the economic environmental costs. If you add these to the equation, it would be unacceptably costly to ruin nature using this equation. Given these costs, sea cable becomes more acceptable. Sea cable would cost 3 million more norsk kroner. This, it is estimated, would cost each Norwegian 50 kroner per year, or, in the Hordaland area alone, 500 kroner per household per year (just under $100.] [The total difference in price is really only the equivalent of $486,000. It astounds me that Norway can spend so much money on farmers’ price supports, tax gasoline at the pump at +80%, and tax nearly everything else purchased in Norway, including services, at 25%, and then argue about a sum under $500,000 - to save a pristine natural wonder.]

 

The argument against sea cable is that it is not technologically reliable, forming a longer cable than has hitherto been placed for such a purpose.

 

As the article notes, a variety of alternatives have been proposed, but too few have been examined thoroughly. One of the problems with the proposed solution – hanging over Hardanger fjord - is that it has the same net-risk weakness as an already existing east-west Bergen power source. One would think greater attention would be placed on Hope’s European grid-related suggestions and north-south routes along the sea.

Norwegian government approves plan to permanently destroy fjord views

Posted on July 8, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Winner: Statkraft

Loser: Norwegians and the World

 

Summary:  The Norwegian government has, after years of haggling and arguing, finally approved high-voltage transmission towers which would criss-cross Norway's most beautiful and untouched fjords and fjord views, views currently enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

  

I know something about this: I am sitting in a cabin with a view of similar high-voltage transmissions towers, which jut with great ugliness from the Drammen fjord at Svelvik, Norway, crossing it, traversing menacingly over a series of lovely old white wooden homes to climb the other side at Klokkarstua, where they disappear into the inland with equal ugliness. They are, to be modern about describing these, suck ugly. And there is no longer any reason to use this form of electricity technology to get power around. Granted, Bergen needs more power. Let them get it another way!

 

When my husband and I were discussing this over our morning coffee (with the suck ugly view I just referred to), I asked him how the"Norwegian government" could make such a decision: ie. didn't the legislature have to approve it? Where would the money come from if they did not? The answer was: No, they don't have to approve it: we have a majority government in Norway, and therefore the legislature is a majority of what the government is, so no one has to approve it except "the government." "But," I continued, "who owns Statkraft?" Answer: "The government."

 

To be honest, I thought these fjords and fjord views were already world-protected. The area is similarly as lovely and nearly on top of one added to the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 2005  (http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/134 ). World Heritage areas are supposed to be protected from excess human development and modifications under an international treaty. (This is embodied in the international treaty, Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.) The idea is to safeguard such sites. Countries involved (such as Norway) should report to UNESCO how they are preserving such sites. Not destroying such areas. The site of the present proposal should also qualify for protection under UNESCO.

 

Another point: Norway has been slow to protect natural areas by national legislation, such as establishing national park territories, as the U.S. has done. Norway's first national park was designated in 1962, and a second not again until 1989, while the U.S. established its National Park Service in 1872, when Yellowstone became its first national park.

My husband's argument against these, er, suck ugly lines and towers is that high-voltage power lines are not the best economic alternative available when one considers the loss of tourism Norway could experience as a result of such lines. The lines are not the least of it: the government then gets busy killing everything that dies within a wide space of the high-voltage assemblages (they're not poles). Add to this the fact that the tourism losses will be multiplied year after year after year. Add to this the fact that power lines are showing up everywhere in the world: is there no place that they cannot and should not show up? Of course there is. . . but is there anything about this that is not some political pork project paying off someone who is on the inside before the government is voted out of power? That's a rather more interesting question.

 

In fact, Norway is quite capable of making sea cable that would accommodate all the power needed, which is, after all the result that is sought. As the famous Danish designer, Poul Henningsen, has said, as I paraphrase: Focus on the light, not the lamp. Similarly, Bergen, focus on the result, not the means. Focus on getting the power to your homes and offices by sea cables, not by overhead wires.

 

This lead me into a broad array of related memories of lessons learned when I moved to Norway. If it sounds like Norway's version of democracy has forgotten about those precious words we revere so in the United States of America, balance of powers, you would be correct. New permanent residents are right to be suspicious when they get to the polling place and are asked not which person they would like to vote for, but which party's ballot they would like to be handed to take into the polling booth. That's right: there is no true representation in Norway; a Norwegian has no representative whose duty is to vote for those things of interest to him/her – the person whose office you call and blast when bad decisions are being made, the person you call when you want a new initiative to be taken up in the law. This makes doing whatever the government wants quite easy – in fact, it's a free-for-all. Once you're 'elected,' as they call it, you're in – in like Flint. Which means in with the budget. Roads? Screw 'em: we won't build better roads. So what if Sweden is so proud of theirs? Schools? Let them rot – look the other way. It's all party-politics. Want to get something for your community? Good luck.

 

The fact that the legislature is the same as the government doesn't help matters right now either, since the present government is a majority government and that government, as we noted, represents the legislature. It's kind of like putting the wolves in charge of the chicken coop: and then kicking out the chickens. The present government is really quite unpopular, despite the fact that they got re-elected last year. "They" are a combination of the Labor party, Center party (the farmer's party – price supports), and the Socialist party (everybody's equal – we mean it. . . and the government is always right, just like in communist countries.) This present "government" – have they really done anything? My husband says, Yes: they saved Norway from the economic crisis by... using the Oil Fund (excuse me, now called the Pension Fun.) They've done exactly what everyone else has done – gone to Afghanistan, send money to Africa, walk around acting holier-than-thou, and give two hoots about infrastructure and communities at home. They have not failed to deliver on any initiatives by never being quite clear enough to commit themselves to some, and are generally obfuscatory when put on the point. Being offended by critique is one of their favorite childish ploys. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, for example, will appear frowning and 'pissed off' in public photos. That takes care of things. Be nice about things and Jens will smile. We want Jens to smile, so most folks around Norway keep their critical opinions to themselves. They just keep quiet, like good Norwegians do.

 

I myself should have shut up two paragraphs ago. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some for your perusal on the topic of the post: http://stoppkraftlinja.no/index.jsp?pid=5001 . There are plenty of terrible photos here. You don't have to know Norwegian to see that. Now, what is anyone going to do about it? . . . who can, that is?

It's called the 'Oil Spilling': Massive Ecosystem Devastation Occurring

Posted on June 27, 2010 at 5:01 AM

I am happy to report that some news and government sources perked up after my peek into BP's latest financial reports.  Don't get me wrong:  I'm not taking credit for, um, the quick response . . . although I might, for all the hullabulloo that 'hit the fan' in the 24 hours after I last posted on this topic, in both news and government circles, both in Europe and the U.S..

 

Alright, so we don't freeze BP's assets;  we go for the 20 billion dollar 'compensation fund' - with a non-BP administrator (as a former auditor, this is the sort of 'control' touch I love to see). And yet, the oil spill is still spilling.

 

Let's noun-ify this right now.  After all, gerunds are 'in.'  It is a spilling.  Call it the spilling, since that is what it, sadly, is. 

 

My point now (one of them) is this:  The news of the continued oil spilling is taking less and less attention in the media - while all related ecosystems are taking more and more of a beating. When is the oil spilling going to stop?

 

Pundits as recently as yesterday (The Copenhagen Post, June 26, 2010) suggested it's simply a matter of time until the oil spilling is no longer spilling.  Why should I take comfort in this news - when no one seems to know how to stop a deep-water oil leak?  In the opinion of many, the time to have performed the necessary technical research and development for deep-water oil leak responses was before such exploration began.  Now, we see how long it takes to find those solutions.

 

Meanwhile, David Cameron's austerity measures, announced also in the last week, say everything but that the elephant is in the room:  The principle first message priority:  Pensions will be cut.  Why?  Well, er, because this is something we (the UK) should do to protect itself from further financial risk, etcetera etcetera.  Read:  BP, BP, BP.  In fact, if one were to sing it, it would sound like the siren on European ambulances.

 

To David Cameron and BP, I say, tell the dolphins.  Tell the turtles.  Tell the pelicans.  Tell all the fish, the lobsters, shrimp and crabs.  Tell the untold microscopic forms of life that this oil is slathering by the thousands of barrels each day, in one of the world's most perfect estuaries for sea life protection and formation.  Then, get something done about what is actually the important news:  the devastation of a vast ecosystem.

Phillip Morris, Norway's Goliath

Posted on April 4, 2010 at 6:01 AM

Subject:  The company that makes Marlboro cigarettes has decided to sue Norway

Take:  I hope they will lose this fight - for all the right reasons. 

My information comes from the short article published to date in Norway's major paper, unfortunately only in Norwegian, in March (http://www.aftenposten.no/okonomi/innland/article3555869.ece).  I'll do the translating as well as the editorializing.

 

A bit of background:  A few months ago, the cigarette racks at the groceries, which are usually situated just behind or just to the right hand of the cashier, were covered over with small metal covers so that each set of rows was covered by a fold-up/fold-down lid.  This prevents you from seeing the stacked ends of the cigarette packs.  Over here in Norway, those include a lot of Prince packs, Camels, Pall Malls, and then Dunhill, and a few others including Marlboros.  As a result, when you get to the check-out and want to ask for your pack, you can't see them, you just ask, and the cashier gets the pack out and rings it up.  The system uses coupons, too, which you carry to the cashier, where they are validated. Anyway, if you want a pack of cigarettes and you're old enough, you can buy them . . instead of, based on their unbelievable cost here, a car after two years (which also has an unbelievable cost, but which you could afford if, instead of smoking a pack a day, you saved that money).  Background over.

 

From the beginning of this calendar year, it was forbidden to show tobacco products on the shelves in Norwegian kiosks (small groceries, other small stores) and larger stores. According to the Purchasers Association, it has cost Norwegian businesses a huge amount of money to implement this ban.  The goal is to protect the average customer from being exposed to seeing tobacco products.  The Norwegian government's ambition is to reduce the number of persons smoking, since smoking is dangerous. 

 

Phillip Morris responds that there is no scientific proof showing that such a visual prohibition has a health effect.  Of course, they've put a woman on the case, Anne Edwards.  Iceland has had a similar system since 2001, she argues, and there's still no proof that it improves health.  Phillip Morris took their case to the Oslo courts in March, claiming that it was a prohibition that worked against natural competition, and against economic freedom.

 

Several other European countries have a similar prohibition, and it's thought this case could lead to a slew of such cases being filed and fought for in various countries.  There has also been the suggestion that the Oslo court could refer the case directly to the EFTA court (European Free Trade Agreement court). The EFTA Court fulfills the judicial function within the EFTA system with regards to those states who embraced the '4 freedoms' (Free movement of workers, free trade, etc etc), and who are not EU nations: that includes Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.

 

Norway's director of public health said, (in Norwegian), "This shows that we are on the right track. If Phillip Morris really believes that the prohibition doesn't reduce tobacco usage, then they wouldn't be troubled by this law. In contrast, I think their case filing is a sign that the prohibition will reduce tobacco usage over time." Love it, Bjørn-Inge Larsen!

 

Sold by Phillip Morris worldwide in CY2008: for 150 billion NOK

Income of operations worldwide in CY2008: 60 billion NOK. Sales figures were not available for Norway alone. However, consider that Norway has a rather small population, 4.8 million.  Norway's gross domestic product (purchasing power parity) in CY 2008 was 279.6 billion U.S. dollars, or 1,621 billion NOK.  Per capita, this makes Norway one of the 'richest' countries in the world, at $60,200 per capita in CY 2008, but also one most impacted per capita by marketing and advertising campaigns. In general, Phillip Morris's overall sales and profitability continue to climb dramatically worldwide.

 

The World Health Organization has set up a body whose goal is to encourage the consistent regulation of tobacco products. Ideally, they discourage the use of tobacco products altogether.  The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first international public health treaty on tobacco.  One of the FCTC's suggested approaches is to restrict the public display of tobacco products.

 

Who is the David?  Norway.  Who is the Goliath?  We know who.  

 

Norway needs to win this fight - for all the right reasons.  What are the reasons Norway would lose?  The restriction of competition in the marketplace is limited, generally - in order to foster economic activity and the free trade of goods.  The problem is that tobacco products are not 'good' goods.  What are the reasons Phillip Morris should lose?  The government has the right to regulate for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of its people.  Hiding cigarettes, even if 'out-of-sight means 'out-of-mind', is precisely what the government should have the right to do. 

 

With tobacco a continuing scourge to all who have contact with it, ruining lives, families, health care systems, estates, and the future for generations of young people the world over, I hope - at the very least -  that such products will remain covered in Norway.  That is at least a stand in the continuing and spreading battle to rid the world of the debilitating deadly economy of tobacco.

Employment in Uncertain Times: Mine & Yours

Posted on January 24, 2010 at 9:14 AM

Subject: What jobs do people need done and how can you identify secure options for yourself?

Angle: Let's look at how Norway handles new ventures, as well as important jobs that need doing, despite hard times.

"I should talk about under-employment," she thought sarcastically. That's me. I've been under-employed in Norway since my arrival, something I never thought would happen, of course. Many other innvandrer (in-wanderers, that is, immigrants) find themselves in the same boat, despite being highly employable at upper professional levels. They also call us 'utlendinger' (foreigners, aliens). Despite my own sorry history of trying to be more fully employed in Norway, or perhaps as a result of it, I share an urgent sense of empathy with those in the U.S. and, yes, even in Norway, who find themselves suddenly under-employed or out-of-work despite their best efforts and their determination to succeed.

So what is there to do? I shall tell you what I did, and what others suggest. First, I applied for hundreds of jobs in Norway. (Bad idea:� age discrimination was still legal here.) I then applied for a few dozen more in Europe and the U.S., hoping to work from Norway, that is. I simultaneously took Norwegian lessons for almost one year. At that point, I gave up my daily applications (good idea) and tried to use networking and other avenues. After 2-3 years, I had garnered a bit of contract work, and my law school loans had gone into default, racking up capitalized interest at an obscene rate, and making all my own personal loan sharks froth in the rough waters of my economic drowning.

On the bright side, I re-created myself in Norway from a career perspective, beginning after a few short months of sorting out where foods were on the grocery shelves, which stores carried what, and what those funny street signs mean that appear inside circles. I began editing texts on contract, and began teaching English on contract. This included substitute teaching as well as some small continuing education classes, teaching English. Luckily, in addition to being an American attorney, I was also a certified English teacher at the secondary level, and had college-level teaching experience. I also rented a small space with my small income and went back to creating art. I held several exhibitions and have sold some paintings and jewelry. A few years in, I also returned to school ? to finish an old Master's degree in English, resulting in my being hired on contract to teach at a Norwegian business college. I maintain my law license as active, which is not as cheap nor as easy as it might sound, but which affords me a small annual salary providing attorney-related services. I also took an interest in alternative health therapies and took the courses to provide related services, which I do now in my spare time. Sound ideal? Sorry, I would never be able to support myself with this scenario, absent my husband's steady income. Which leads me to the point that I must, in the next year or so, 'cut bait or switch,' as they say: that is, pull up my Norwegian income or go back to the U.S. to manage to do that there. Not a pretty scene. Besides, I now owe some sharks the approximate value of Norway's gross national product in re-capitalized interest, added to already capitalized interest that buried my original unpaid balance years ago. Still, I can't help feeling like I was the first to go through this recession, so it's comforting to see so many others joining me . . . as our student loan providers drag us all to the bottom of the un-bankruptable ocean-floor that is our 'economic lives.' But enough of these suicidal thoughts,� Virginia Woolf.

Are you ready, spiritually-broken attorneys, writers, and other mantra-maddened job groups? Here is your deliverance: The jobs that Norwegians feel are the most meaningful jobs to be done for the society ("Norges viktigste," Dagbladet, 14. april, 2009, 13.) What? You weren't thinking in this direction? Oh, you were thinking of yourself? To begin with, you have to think with more collective goals in mind, alright? Starting there, here is the new important you:

1. Nurse

2. Teacher

3. Doctor

4. Police

5. Engineer

6. Hand worker (carpenter, plumber, electrician)

7. Case worker (in the public sector)

8. Attorney

9. Shop worker

10. Journalist

Not exciting?� Not that there are a lot of jobs for print journalists or attorneys these days in the general economy. However, this list should help you put your 'society-glasses' on, as Norwegians might say.

Recent projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on the top ten fastest-growing occupations follow:

- Home health aides

--Network systems and data communications analysts

- Medical assistants

- Physician assistants

- Computer software engineers

- Physical therapist assistants

- Dental hygienists

- Computer software engineers

- Dental assistants

- Personal and home care aides

Mmm, some of these sound suspiciously similar to the 'important jobs' Norwegians value. What? You don't want to wash people's feet ? or teeth ? for a living? Many of them don't, either.� Or visit them in their homes to help them . . . eat? Yet, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, "many jobs in real estate and finance, for instance, are likely gone forever. And those in retail and leisure may be slow to return if consumers are reluctant to spend." ("Many lost jobs in U.S. will never come back," Sudeep Reddy, The Outlook, WSJ, Oct. 5, 2009.)

I have an alternative suggestion, which may not differ markedly from portions of the previous list. Look around you, locally. Who needs help? Who needs a product? a service? an opportunity? Identify who helps persons who have that need to answer that need. If it is an agency, find out how to serve them. If it is a franchise, find out how to get one. If it is a license, find out how to acquire it. Stick with local issues ? you'll be making non-Walmart differences. After all, if you're lucky, you'll have profits that you can plow a portion of back into the community, the sort of thing we used to do in America. Also, join with others who are organized for business purposes in your community. The social network aspects of such work can help you and others identify and address detailed needs, not just help each other.

Whatever you do, don't go to law school. Now, goodbye, it's time for me to enjoy my weekly hour-off. Let's see, what else could I do to make money? I wish you lots of luck, energy, enthusiasm and dedication.�

Saving Our Banks, One Poem at a Time

Posted on March 8, 2009 at 9:27 AM

 

Subject:  The continuing failure of our American banks.

Recently:  The word "nationalize" has now been uttered.

Take:  Poetic justice is served here.

 

I enjoyed reading Joe Nocera's article, "Chorus grows: Nationalize the banks," in the Feb. 14th International Herald Tribune, http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/13/business/wbjoe14.php.  This issue included a further article, visiting not only Nocera's 'Kitchen Cabinet' of economic experts, but even more great experts, "U.S. Treasury may need bolder approach on banks" in the Paris edition, also here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/13/business/13insolvent.php .  What these articles suggest is that a plan modeled on aspects of nationalization, combined with the selling-off of bank portions in a fashion similar to that done during the savings and loan bail-out of the 1980's, could and would result in the sort of effective cost-saving action that should be contemplated and put into place now.  And yet, according to Nocera, Timothy Geitner, the new U.S. Treasury secretary, is "avoiding the most straightforward, obvious path out of the crisis."  (IHT, Feb. 14, 2009).

 

I have a solution: Make it easy to understand, and make it quippy.  As an American attorney with multiple degrees in law and literature, too much snow on the roof, and too little incentive to shovel it off, I have created something with the smack of modern vivacity, originality and, let's admit it, rhythm, which is just the thing to get us going, climbing out of the hole that over-confident consumerism, greed and sheer financial debauchery have gotten some people into.  It would not be the first time that a quippy phrase – or two – saved the day, or the company.  After all, Things go better with . . . banks.  And banks . . . gotta lot to give. So, let's pour it on.  Additionally, one has to admit that nationalizing banks is not as difficult as nationalizing oil, both of which would improve the average American's life tremendously, and both of which have been done, to one degree or another, in many advanced quality-of-life civilizations now admired around the world (er...including Norway).

 

I have reviewed the outlines of the suggested resolutions made by the esteemed experts noted in these aforementioned articles, and have arrived at two poetic solutions.  Each provides its own rationale, logical order and internal rhyming perfection, in addition to including the important use of numbers:

1.      Drop

2.      Crop

3.      Prop

This particular poem, Part One, covers the bases:  Get rid of the losers, crop the bad debts out of those questionable in-betweeners, and prop up banks with government ownership that can be re-sold to the private sector at a later date – like, year – when and if they promise to behave themselves and run a better show. My second poem has similar strengths, so one can select it, purely on the basis of enjoying the roundness of its tones, as opposed to the clipped personality of Part One.

  1. Tell
  2. Swell
  3. Sell

This poem, Part Two, also covers the bases:  Tell these idiot banks what you are going to do, (ie: then do it), swell the revenue available for good loans under new rules, and then sell off the banks you've been majority-owning and managing, again, when and if they promise to behave themselves and run a better show.  That show should include banking rules preventing shenanigans of this sort in the future. After all, a real tree is a much better real tree than the promise of a real tree. I can see those trees of banks bearing voluminous and beautiful fat fruit already.

 

Ahh, it's nice to have things solved, isn't it?  Timothy?  It's just all those details that can become so complicated.  But then that is what we look towards our financial and economic wizards, and our Treasury, Fed, and SEC, to do with their time and talents.  One would think they would rather shovel snow off their roofs.

Economic Recovery: Potential Redux

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 2:31 PM

Economic Recovery: Potential�Redux��

Subject:��Economic recovery footnotes for the *U.S. �(*Note:Just as good a place to start as any.)

News item:Recent weeks have shown President Obama and his team attempting to grapple with the financial mess left for them by the outgoing administration and a host of greedy and secretive financial folk that stretch from Alaska to Florida.... and probably also Saudi Arabia to China.Still, the American people who put Obama in the White House have held hope that he would 'change business as usual' in Washington � and beyond, as necessary.They also hoped he would be able to help them personally - to recover their forward momentum, their own economic status, their dreams for their children and families, and help make the 'American dream' of safety in one's house and home, and satisfaction with one's work a reality.Not only this, but Americans also want to recapture global growth in technology and professionalism and, of course, secure the social services that a tax-based system should provide: good health care at affordable prices and a social safety net for the disabled, sick and elderly - all things that Americans once had, and that smack of the honest, hard-working and respectable nature that is part of our own particular heritage -�one we are damned proud of. Therefore, it is hard not to notice some sad developments 'at home' while pointing out some observations that appear crystal clear as an American sitting in Norway.

One of these observations is made by Paul Krugman, the Nobel prize-winning economist.Krugman writes that the Republicans in Congress are standing in the way of an economic recovery plan in a situation that has much more dire consequences than they can have any notion of wishing on anyone, including themselves.Perhaps someone should do the math for the politicos.The economy cannot be held up by greedy bankers, lenders, shysters and hucksters.Nor can it be held up by millionaire senators and representatives, no matter how clueless or mean-spirited they want to be.

Item 2.The auto industry. In early January, the International Herald Tribune reported that, "GMAC LLC will no longer have exclusive rights to provide no- or low-interest loans to people who take advantage of General Motors financing incentives, as part of the complex deal that gave the troubled lender billions in federal aid. The move could reduce the Detroit automaker's dependance on GMAC to provide financing and possibly boost its sales by giving consumers more options for affordable loans.GMAC, which provides GM dealer and customer financing in addition to home mortgage loans, disclosed the terms of the agreement in a regulatory filing Friday. The lender said the government will get 5 million preferred shares of GMAC paying 8 percent interest in exchange for its $5 billion capital injection to help GMAC avoid bankruptcy." ("GMAC gives up some GM car financing in bailout," The Associated Press, Published: January 2, 2009).

The auto industry is back in Washington soon to attempt to get more money without promising to pay back any loaned money already received, all while attempting to show that they have used billions of short-term dollars for precisely the things that will save their industrial life (um, not 'their' bank) from otherwise economic death.Meanwhile, Hyundai is capturing a growing segment of the new car market, with soaring sales in the U.S. (and Norway).What has GM been?Answer: In part, another car loan salesman �another greedy banker, lender, huckster, and shyster of high-interest, repo-prone car loans.Is it any surprise that we do not hear the car companies reminding Congress that they just love the banking business? Let's see income as a percentage of sales of cars vs. loan interest and appreciation.One could add in a column for proceeds from repo's, re-possessions of cars whose 'owners' failed to make a payment or two, only to see their entire investment be driven off by the company for re-sale elsewhere, their own contributions acting more as a lease than a contract for purchase. And, frankly, one could take them out of the banking business - which would be good for American business - if one was strong enough, smart enough, and interested enough.� This would appear to be a reasonable proposition (ie: for discussion).� Note:� It is not nationalization (ie:� for those who think that would be the end of the growth economy, that is).

Item 3.Several thousand persons show up at a housing assistance program office to complete applications for a small number of housing assistance grants in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, causing such fear of overcoming the capabilities of the public authorities that the police are called in to maintain order, resulting in escalating tensions and periods of chaotic desperation, tearing the social fabric and surprising with its personal and identifiable sadness.Meanwhile, in Norway, the office of unemployment insurance announces that there are so many qualified people applying for unemployment insurance just now that check-postings will be delayed for weeks and weeks, resulting in a similar gasp of collective panic.Which country would you prefer to live in?Despite the gloomy days and nights of winter we have seen lately, the answer is: Norway.Reason:They manage to have a social safety net � um, at all.� For those of you who are history-challenged, this (a social safety net) began to disappear in the age of Ronald Reagan, and never re-appeared.� Reagan's legacy may have been the gipper guy, but it was also the age when ordinary Americans began to become permanently homeless, and the entire 'volunteer' economy was ordered into being.� Americans work hard...for the most part.They are willing to work hard, and they like working hard... in general.But cut off a person's ability to try to succeed, and when failing, not be caught by someone somehow as they fall, and you begin to ruin the promise that a caring society should afford its members � respect for the need for food, lodging, medical care, safety and community.The sooner our new President and his administration can do something about that, the sooner the fear � and loathing � will begin to subside.That's not a promise, but it is a good guess.

I like most Americans pray that God will speed all of the necessary tools and talents to the persons at whose disposal they will begin to unravel and re-invent these crucial and difficult societal concerns.For personal assistance from Yours Truly, please call me!After all:"Under-employed professional in Norway seeks meaningful work to retire persistent balance on law school loans, caused by unavoidable repayment delays...caused by under-employment in Norway, the total sum of which was caused by lack of options ..a lack of options for avoiding ... greedy bankers, lenders, shysters and hucksters."

Obama's Path to Power

Posted on November 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM

I am proud that the people of the United States have voted for Barack Obama.  But also a little confused that we found his election so - surprising, for lack of a better word.  On a cold Fall night, thousands of supporters gathered in Grant Park, Chicago, my hometown, to see the man who told us this election was "about you" - only to discover that when the numbers were tallied, this election was also about him.

I especially enjoyed Time magazine's Commemorative issue coverage, and recommend it to others who want to 're-live the moment.'  http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20081117,00.html.

Now on to the hard work.  As The Onion cynically surmised in their over-the-top humorous headline, "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job," http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/black_man_given_nations.

 

Caught between the frying pan of the election-run and the fire of the Presidency, Obama, like Lincoln, seems to be sobering to the hard work ahead of him - and the world.  Thank goodness for someone with some sense.

Caught between the stardust of the upcoming inauguration parties, and the floodlights of public opinion, let our new President remember that the election of Barack Obama was about changing business as usual - in the sort of way that ordinary people need and deserve.  God bless him, and God bless America.