How Much Life Do We Have Left?

Ever since I noticed that I have fewer years left to live than I’ve lived already, I’ve developed a consoling theory about how much life really remains.

It’s probably not an original idea, but it feels original because … well, I know of no other way around the brevity of our lives.

Here’s how it works.

Most of us, by the time we’ve reached my age, have lived fairly busy lives of work and family, spending whole years focused on the future and what it will bring, looking forward someday to years of ease and comfort that eluded us in the moments as they flew by. We’ve been occupied, in other words, with most of the normal stresses and anxieties of a conscientious and responsible life.

If for all those years we’ve been alive already, we count only those moments during which we were conscious of the beauty and grace of this totally unearned gift of life as the moments during which we were truly alive, then … we may have as many or more such moments left to us in whatever time remains than we had in all the years before.

Maybe we’ll have more moments of joy and beauty in the months or years remaining than we had in all the decades before.

Somehow, we have to cultivate more gratitude.

Sounds easy, right?

It’s not.

The habit of distraction is strong.

Could this be the answer ...

... to this?

It’s a good theory, but I’d welcome some tips on how to  improve the practice!

How to stay conscious of the beauty of each moment as it flies?

Alan Watts: At the Intersection of Science and Philosophy

"The Individual and the Universe are Inseparable"

Remembering Alan Watts no doubt dates me.

That’s OK.

I still miss the extravagant and rebellious Sixties.

Here’s a sample of what Alan Watts was like, but remixed by John Boswell in the style of Boswell’s Symphony of Science videos.

Boswell’s remix presents Watts more like Watts than … Watts was himself!

Which he would probably have appreciated …

Have You Backed-Up Your WordPress Site Lately?

Ah, I feel better!

I backed-up my WordPress database and complete set of site files today, then upgraded to WordPress 2.9.2.

It took a couple of hours of research and reading to understand what to do, then about 15 minutes for the whole operation.

Better safe than sorry, because …

STUFF HAPPENS !!!

The Growing Movement for Publicly Owned Banks

Published by Yes! Magazine March 17, 2010

We the people have given away our sovereign money-creating power to private, for-profit lending institutions, which have used it to siphon wealth from the productive economy. Some states are moving to take that power back.

by Ellen Brown

“Hundreds of job-creating projects are still on hold because Michigan businesses and entrepreneurs cannot get bank financing. We can break the credit crunch and beat Wall Street at their own game by keeping our money right here in Michigan and investing it to retool our economy and create jobs.”

—Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero in The Detroit News March 9, 2010

Michigan, which has an unemployment rate of 14 percent, has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, the state’s capital, and a leading Democratic candidate for governor, proposes to relieve the state’s economic ills by opening a state-owned bank. He says the bank could protect consumers by making low-interest loans to those most in need, including students and small businesses; it could also help community banks by buying mortgages off their books and working with them to fund development projects.

Bernero joins a growing list of candidates proposing this sensible solution to their states’ fiscal ills. Local economies have collapsed because of the Wall Street credit freeze. To reinvigorate local business, Main Street needs a heavy infusion of credit, and publicly-owned banks could fill that need.

In a recent article for YES! Magazine, I tracked candidates in five states running on a state bank platform and one state (Massachusetts) with a bill pending. Just one month later, there are now three more bills on the rolls—in Washington State, Illinois and Michigan—and two more candidates joining the list of proponents (joining Bernero is Gaelan Brown of Vermont). That brings the total to seven candidates in as many states (Florida, Oregon, Illinois, California, Washington State, Vermont, and Idaho) campaigning for state-owned banks, including three Democrats, two Greens, one Republican, and one Independent.

The Independent, Vermont’s Gaelan Brown, says on his website, “Washington, D.C. has lost all moral authority over Vermont.” He adds, “Vermont should explore creating a State-owned bank that would work with private VT-based banks, to insulate VT from Wall Street corruption, and to increase investment capital for VT businesses, modeled after the very successful state-owned Bank of North Dakota.”

The Bank of North Dakota, currently the nation’s only state-owned bank, is the model (with variations) for all the other proposals on the table. The Bank of North Dakota acts as a “bankers’ bank,” partnering with other banks in “participation loans,” which allow them to compete with larger banks. In a participation loan, the community bank originates the loan and takes responsibility for it, while the participating bank contributes funds and shares in the risk and profits. The Bank of North Dakota also makes low-interest loans to students, farmers and businesses; underwrites municipal bonds; and provides liquidity for more than 100 banks around the state.

Three New Bills Pending for Publicly Owned Banks

Proposals for publicly owned banks in other states have now progressed beyond the campaign talk of political hopefuls to be drafted into several bills.

The Michigan Development Bank

The Michigan bill has gotten the most press. Introduced into the legislature earlier this month, it mirrors Bernero’s state bank idea. According to a press release issued by Michigan Senate Democrats on March 9, the bill’s aim is to “keep Michigan’s money in Michigan” by putting tax dollars into a proposed “Michigan Development Bank.” The bank would function like a traditional bank, but would focus on economic development rather than profit. The press release quoted Senator Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing):

Investing in the state’s economy is the greatest way to create jobs, and this proposal will provide small businesses and entrepreneurs the funding they need to invest and grow. Our economy has stagnated due in part to stale thinking in Lansing, and this is just the type of innovative idea we need to create real economic change, using our own money to rebuild the state.

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming) stated:

Michigan’s economy has been suffering, and working families in the state have had difficulty keeping up with credit card bills, college tuition prices and mortgage payments. Establishing the Michigan Development Bank will keep our hard-earned dollars right here in the state to invest in small business, create good-paying jobs to get people back to work, and help protect the middle class.

Also quoted was Senator Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit):

With the current state of our economy, every dollar counts, yet we’re depositing our money in other people’s pockets by investing in big corporate banks without seeing much lending in return. It’s time for the Mitten State to lend itself a helping hand and establish a bank that is willing to invest in our small businesses and offer the financial support necessary to see job growth.

For start-up capital, the Senate Democrats suggested that Michigan could sell voter-approved bonds. With an initial capitalization of $150 million, they estimated the bank could lend up to $1 billion to small businesses, students and farmers, and offer low-interest credit cards to consumers. For deposits, the bank could follow the model of the Bank of North Dakota and use state revenues. So says Gene Taliercio, a Republican candidate for the state Senate, who has also put his weight behind the Michigan Development Bank. In a video clip on the website of the local Oakland Press, he says, “We’re talking about restructuring the whole tax system, in the sense that the way it’s set up is that all taxes are going to go into this central bank … Every dollar that the state of Michigan makes goes into this bank.”

The State Bank of Washington

A similar bill, HB 3162, was introduced to the Washington State Legislature on February 1. The bill has generated so much interest that Steve Kirby, chair of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, has scheduled a special work session on it. According to John Nichols in The Nation, the State Bank of Washington was formally proposed by House finance committee vice chair Bob Hasegawa, a Seattle Democrat. Nichols quotes Hasegawa:

Imagine financing student aid, infrastructure, industry and community development. Imagine providing access to capital for small businesses, or otherwise leveraging our resources instead of having to do it with tax incentives. Imagine keeping our resources local instead of exporting them as profits, never to be seen again—that’s what this bank could do.

Leveraging, rather than taxing, is how private banks have been creating “credit” for centuries. States could do the same thing, cutting the middlemen out of the equation, saving significant sums in interest and fees and generating revenue for the state.

A nonpartisan analysis of the Washington bill prepared for the state legislature noted that the bank would be the depository for all state funds and the funds of state institutions, and that these deposits would be guaranteed by the state. The bank would be run by a board of 11 members and would be chaired by the State Treasurer. It would have the same rules and privileges as a private bank chartered in the state. Since current law prohibits the state from lending credit and investing in private firms, voters would have to approve the state Constitution to get the bank off the ground.

The Community Bank of Illinois

A third bill, introduced by Illinois Representative Mary Flowers, is on its way through the legislative process in Illinois. According to the Illinois General Assembly website, the Community Bank of Illinois Act would establish a state bank with the express purpose of boosting agriculture, commerce, and industry. State funds and money held by penal, educational, and industrial institutions owned by the state would be deposited in the bank and would serve as reserves for making loans. The bank could also serve as a clearinghouse for other banks, including handling domestic and foreign exchange; and it could buy property under eminent domain. All deposits would be guaranteed with the assets of the state. The Bank would be managed and controlled by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, with input from an advisory board representing private banking and public interests.

An amendment to the initial bill would enable the Community Bank of Illinois to make loans directly to the state’s General Revenue Fund, helping the state cope with its current budget challenges.

A Massachusetts-owned Bank

On March 12, the Associated Press reported that a jobs bill sponsored by Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray also includes a call to study a Massachusetts-owned bank. She told a business group that a state-owned bank has worked in North Dakota, helping to insulate that state from the worst of the recession while also keeping its foreclosure rate down; similarly, a state-owned bank could spur job creation and free up lending to Massachusetts businesses.

Grandfather of the Concept: The Bank of North Dakota
All of these proposals take their inspiration from the Bank of North Dakota, which was founded in 1919 to resolve a credit crisis like that facing other states today. Last year, North Dakota had the largest budget surplus it had ever had. It was the only state that was actually adding jobs when others were losing them. In March 2009, when 46 of 50 states were in fiscal crisis, the Council of State Governments noted that North Dakota was in the enviable position of discussing tax cuts and looking for ways to spend its surplus.

With the deepening crisis, according to National Public Radio, by January 2010 only two states could still meet their budgets—North Dakota and Montana. On February 8, however, the Montana paper the Missoulian reported that the Montana State Legislature’s chief revenue forecaster foresees a budget deficit by mid-2011, leaving North Dakota the only state still boasting a surplus.

North Dakota’s riches have been attributed to oil, but many states with oil are floundering. The sole truly distinguishing feature of North Dakota seems to be that it has managed to avoid the Wall Street credit freeze by owning and operating its own bank. According to the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the BND turned a profit in 2009 of $58.1 million; this money goes into the state’s General Fund. North Dakota’s economy is ten times smaller than Michigan’s, suggesting that Michigan could generate $500 million per year in this way; Washington State and Illinois present similarly inviting possibilities.

That defuses the objection raised in a March 15 editorial in The Detroit News, arguing that Michigan can ill afford the $150 million capital investment to start a bank. If operated like the BND, the Michigan Development Bank could soon be a net generator of state revenues. There are other possibilities, besides a bond issue, for providing the capital to start a bank, but that subject will be reserved for another article.

The BND’s 90-year track record of prudent and profitable lending defuses another objection to state-owned banks: that a public agency cannot be trusted to act responsibly in managing public funds. The Detroit News’ editorial concluded that Michigan should “leave banking to the bankers,” but it is precisely because the bankers have destroyed the economy with their reckless lending practices that the public needs to step in. We need a “public option” in banking to set standards and keep private banks honest.

The True Potential of Publicly-owned Banks
North Dakota broke new ground nearly a century ago, but the true potential of publicly owned banks remains to be explored. Nearly all of our money today is created by banks when they extend loans. (See the Chicago Federal Reserve’s “Modern Money Mechanics,” which begins, “The actual process of money creation takes place primarily in banks.”) We the people have given away our sovereign money-creating power to private, for-profit lending institutions, which have used it to siphon wealth from the productive economy. If we were to take that power back, we could generate the credit we need to underwrite a whole cornucopia of projects that we don’t even consider because we think we lack the “money.” We have the labor and we have the materials; we just lack the “liquidity” necessary to put them together to create products and services.

Money today is just a ticket, a receipt for work performed and goods delivered. We can fund the work we need done by creating our own credit. The real promise of publicly-owned banks is not that they can bail out subprime borrowers but that they can jumpstart the economy by creating real wealth. They can provide the liquidity to put labor and materials together, allowing the economy to build and grow. Our private, profit-driven banking sector has been bleeding wealth from the rest of the economy. Public-interest banks can transfuse the economy with the credit it needs to flourish and be productive once again.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Ellen Brown wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Ellen developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” Her websites are webofdebt.comellenbrown.com, and public-banking.com.

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Small Banks, Radical Vision :: Local banks can change the world, one investment at a time.

Can a Video Game Teach Sustainability?

Published by Yes! Magazine on March 15, 2010

Designers of the new “City Rain” believe that it can.

by Rik Langendoen

In the video game Grand Theft Auto, players perform crimes ranging from theft to murder to rise through the ranks of organized crime. In Civilization IV, players are European settlers in the Americas—they can win the game by conquering, colonizing, and building a standing army.

A team of students from Brazil’s Universidade Estadual Paulista wanted to design a different kind of game, one that focuses “on ecology and environmental sustainability,” according to their website.

The result is City Rain, a student winner in the 2009 Independent Games Festival and the winner of Imagine Cup, a competition for sustainability-themed games sponsored by Microsoft.

City Rain is considered to be a hybrid between Sim City—another game in which players plan cities, but which focuses on development rather than sustainability—and Tetris, the famous puzzle game.

The game is a simulation puzzle of a green city, and yet is also action-packed—players must quickly construct an urban environment onto the playing area, making sure that is both pleasing for the residents and environmentally friendly.

City Rain has several modes. In the main mode, you play a member of RAIN, the Rescue and Intervention Nonprofit Organization, an elite environmental Swat Force that is in charge of restructuring polluting cities before they are penalized by the World Environment Protection Agency. You restructure the cities by placing homes, schools, community services, factories, green spaces, landfills—all of the elements of a contemporary built environment—onto the grid surface in a way that creates a balanced environment.

It’s all about creating and maintaining infrastructure that will make the city greener. You attempt to maximize all of the aspects that make life for your city dwellers enjoyable: economic opportunity, leisure, safety, renewable energy, minimal environmental impact, and more. Your performance is helpfully displayed as progression bars in the bottom-left corner of the playing area.

One of the game challenges is the fictional company Bane Industries, one of the last corporations in the world that refuses to submit to WEPA environmental standards and wreaks widespread environmental havoc.

In a review, The Gamers Daily News said that “While City Rain is one big environmentalist pitch to start caring about the environment, it is also a genuinely fun and well-designed game. It’s simple enough that anyone can play but also complex enough that the hardest of the hardcore can challenge themselves to its puzzles.”

Some users have complained that the game focuses too much on negative reinforcement: If you make a decision that’s not environmentally friendly, you will be scolded by your “advisor.” Players have suggested that, rather than just telling players not to be environmentally irresponsible, the game should give players practical incentives for responsible behavior. For example, instead of telling you not to cut down trees, the game model could show that when trees are cut, pollution increases and the contentment of the residents goes down.

In another game mode, called Campaign, you become a member of a task force with access to the mayor’s budget. Presented with all the challenges that real cities face, you have to learn how to use that budget wisely.

The game is being played around the world. If you want to give it a try, you can download a free demo version here.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License

Rik Langendoen wrote this article for Yes Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Rik is an environmental consultant with an emphasis on sustainability.

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The City We All Want to Live In :: How to make our cities just, inclusive, and green.

A Greeting Across the Species Barrier

Back in the late seventies, when our children were still under ten, we loved to spend an occasional warm summer afternoon at Marine World, which was then still located in Redwood City.

One of our favorite places to hang out at the park was the below-ground gallery for viewing the underwater antics of the dolphins. The gallery consisted of a long series of thick glass windows in a semicircle around half of the tank where the dolphins put on their show. Above us above ground were the bleachers where people watched the show.

One afternoon between shows, we were among a fairly large crowd of people in the undergound gallery, watching one particular dolphin swim in a constant great circle past each window over and over again. Most of the gallery windows were crowded with young children and their parents, fascinated by the beauty of this creature and his endless motion inside the tank.

I happened to be alone at the last, right-most window of the tank, and I fell into a kind of pleasant thoughtless reverie, induced partly by the effortless repetition of his powerful and silent movement. He must have made several dozen complete circles around the tank when, quite unexpectedly, he stopped right in front of my window, then turned to face me and looked directly into my eyes while I looked directly into his.

I have no idea how long he stayed poised that way, perfectly still, just looking, as I was perfectly still, just looking. It was probably no more than 30 seconds, but a strong chill ran up my spine and I felt goose bumps.

I had been seen by this beautiful creature!

Then he moved on and continued his great circles inside the tank.

I’m convinced to this day that whatever else you might say about this experience, it was definitely a telepathic greeting across the species barrier.

I thought of this experience a few days ago when we watched the new documentary called The Cove, a searing look at dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, that some have called “a cross between Flipper and The Bourne Identity.”

We’ve never seen anything quite like it.

It made us angry and it made us weep.

The great thing is that it may also make a difference.

We watched it using Netflix’s Instant Play through our Roku. It’s also available in the local video store.

Warning: The one scene of the actual slaughter, with the cove full of water as red as tomato sauce, is not suitable for very young children.

But for the rest of us, watching this outrageous destruction of a fellow conscious creature is necessary and important, if only to recruit us to the effort to stop it.

Deflation: GOP Wants Failed B-Actor on $50 Bill

Bedtime for Bonzo

The nightmare never ends (from article, “Politics and Currency” in High Country News):

H.L. Mencken once observed that it would have been worth losing the Civil War in order not to have Ulysses S. Grant as president. The reputation of Grant’s presidency, 1869-77, has improved since Mencken’s day, but apparently not enough.

Now there’s a bill introduced in Congress to replace his picture on the $50 bill, a fixture since 1913, with a portrait of Ronald Reagan.

The proposal comes from Patrick T. McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, who said that “President Reagan is indisputably one of the most transformative presidents of the 20th century,” and that in polls of presidential scholars, Reagan consistently outranks Grant, so “President Reagan deserves a place of honor on our nation’s currency.”

[…]

And Reagan will get on a coin. In 2007, the U.S. Mint began the “Presidential Dollar Coin Program,” starting with George Washington. After a three-month run, it was John Adams, and so on through the presidents at four per year. Reagan’s turn comes in 2016,

That’s not enough for some boosters, though, especially since the centennial of Reagan’s birth (Feb. 6. 1911) is imminent. We should expect to hear a lot more from Grover Norquist and his Reagan Legacy Project, which wants every state, and indeed every American county, to name a “significant public landmark” after Reagan.

For my county, whose economy was devastated during the Reagan years as it lost population, I proposed re-naming an old limestone quarry — it curtailed production during Reagan’s tenure, with the loss of a couple of dozen good union jobs — as “the Reagan Pit.”

Read the full article here.

The Best Way to Woo Google

There’s an interesting discussion going on over in Jeff Pelline’s blog about the Google Fiber for Communities project. One of Jeff’s readers, Bob Garza, posted a pointer to an interesting article about the project in yesterday’s San Jose Mercury (“Gaga for Google: Communities compete for high-speed Internet“).

The Mercury article is entertaining because it shows the lengths — sometimes ludicrous lengths — to which some communities will go to attract Google’s attention:

They’re swilling Google-tinis in Sarasota, Fla., and vowing to Google-ize the names of their firstborn children up in Duluth. Topeka has been temporarily re-christened Google, Kan. And mayors throughout the realm are vying for the search giant’s favor, from sucking up to it on Twitter to jumping into icy Lake Superior in their shorts.

… From Berkeley to Boca Raton, hundreds of cities have joined the high-tech stampede to be chosen as a host for Google’s grand fiber-optic experiment — free installation of a network delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than what most Americans have ever seen.

Virtual Gigabit Rally

It occurred to me as I read the Mercury article that getting Google’s attention and getting them to choose our community are two entirely different things.

And I also had a flash of insight: While most communities will naturally emphasize their unique qualifications, what might be most influential is to emphasize what’s not unique. That is, emphasize how our community is typical or representative of the best in American rural life.

Since it will obviously be impossible for Google to select every rural community that applies for this project, the next best thing will be to select a qualified rural community that in some sense represents all rural communities, a model for what is typical of rural communities. It might be in our interest to suggest such a strategy in our application to Google.

Any citizen may submit a recommendation to Google on the project website here. See my own submission on behalf of Nevada County at the end of this post. Everyone who has an interest in this project should use this tool. We could have a “virtual gigabit rally” for our community. This might add some weight to the decision scale.

I’m assuming that Google will choose at least one rural community. Support for this assumption can be found in several of Google’s writings. The very first sentence in the very first paragraph of its “Project Overview” uses a rural example:

Imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web, and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York. Or downloading a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. Or collaborating with classmates around the world while watching live 3D video of a university lecture. Universal, ultra high-speed Internet access will make all this, and more possible.

In Google’s comments to the FCC in support of a National Broadband Plan, they again use the rural example:

Last November, the FCC paved the way for “white spaces” spectrum to be used to deliver better and faster wireless broadband connections to American consumers. The Commission should encourage use of unlicensed devices in “white spaces” spectrum by eliminating unnecessary requirements and easing interference standards in rural areas where no actual harmful interference would occur.

And in Google’s Public Policy Blog, their proposal to operate a “white spaces” spectrum database elicits a number of references to the rural application:

This spectrum, which can cover vast distances, could be used to connect underserved rural and urban communities to the Internet, at perhaps a tenth of the cost of today’s municipal wi-fi projects … We believe this technology holds particular promise for those tens of millions of Americans living in more rural areas … Wally Bowen of the Mountain Area Information Network discussed the potential of these airwaves to bring broadband access to rural communities … Utilizing the unused TV “white spaces” for broadband access would be a tremendous opportunity to bring the Internet to more Americans — including those in rural areas and first responders.

Google, in its Project Description, also speaks of wanting to achieve as rapid a deployment as possible.

Here’s the text of my submission to Google this morning, using the tool mentioned above. I’m unaccustomed to writing advertising copy, but I took my best shot, even at the risk of a little extra hyperbole.

As a former Stanford network engineer who lived 40 years in Palo Alto and now the last few years in Nevada County, I feel confident in saying that Nevada County represents the perfect testbed for the rural portion of your project.

Nevada County well reflects the American rural ideal, with its demographic mix of high-tech savvy and strong community values. And like most rural communities at this time in our history, it is hurting economically.

The gigabit project could act here like a catalyst injected into a supersaturated solution, provoking an economic phase change.

Our county, with a population of nearly 100,000, is rich with the talent and requisite infrastructure ingredients for such a project. This is the original home of Grass Valley Group, a world leader in video technology. There is a significant amount of broadband technology here, but, as always, the rural distances inhibit its reach.

The talent in this county is remarkable, and you will no doubt get more details about that from the municipal application. I offer my comments here in support of that application.

The point I would emphasize is that, since Google obviously can’t deploy this project to all the rural communities that will apply for it, it makes sense to select an emblematic or archetypal rural community, one that will stand for all.

Nevada County is that county, beyond a doubt, with the additional advantage that it already has a high-degree of high-tech savvy among its citizens, so the prospects for a rapid deployment are very high.

In Iceland, Unlike U.S., Democracy Defeats the Banksters

Published by Yes! Magazine on March 10, 2010

In a symbolic decision, democracy trumps capital as Icelanders say “no” to big bank bailouts.

by John Nichols

What if Americans had been asked whether they wanted to bail out big bankers and Wall Street speculators?

How many would have voted “no”?

A measure of patriotism feeds the hope that they would have made their opposition known as resoundingly as have the voters of Iceland, who on Saturday rejected demands by the United Kingdom and the Netherlands—working hand-in-hand with the rapacious International Monetary Fund—that the people of the tiny island nation cover losses triggered by the failure of a private bank.

A “yes” vote on Saturday’s referendum would have saddled each citizen of Iceland with $16,400 of debt, with the money to be paid to compensate the British and Dutch governments for expenditures to cover depositor losses stemming from the failure of the Icelandic bank Icesave.

The overall debt of $5.3 billion, or 45 percent of Iceland’s economic output for last year, would have impoverished the country.

As Icelandic President Olafur R. Grimsson explained this week: “Ordinary people, farmers and fishermen, taxpayers, doctors, nurses, teachers, (were) being asked to shoulder through their taxes a burden that was created by irresponsible greedy bankers.”

Fortunately, Iceland is a democracy. So those farmers and fishermen, taxpayers, doctors, nurses, teachers got to decide whether they were inclined to pay for a bank bailout.

They shouted “no” as loudly as that word could be uttered.

An early analysis suggests that roughly 98 percent of the Icelanders who cast valid ballots rejected the “deal.”

Only two percent supported it, while five percent of ballots were invalidated.

London’s Telegraph newspaper put the vote in the proper perspective when it declared: “On Saturday Icelanders became the world’s first rebels against the idea of clearing up after the mess made by a reckless private bank. This popular insurrection has been watched anxiously by the governments in Greece, Ireland, eastern Europe—and even Britain—concerned that this defiance could become contagious.”

It should become contagious.

Despite the threats made against Iceland by the economic powers that be, the reality is that the rejection of this particular agreement will result in a dramatically better deal being reached.

Indeed, in anticipation of the “no” vote, officials in the U.K. and the Netherlands had penned a letter to Iceland’s Finance Minister, Steingrimur Sigfusson, in which they committed themselves to seek a more equitable solution that is in line with international standards.

That fact has caused some to suggest that the referendum vote did not have much meaning.
In fact, as Iceland’s former Health Minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, who resigned last fall in protest of Icesave deal-making, said: “This is a dispute between people and capital, property rights and human rights. Maybe we need a little bit of revolution—this is why many people in finance dislike the referendum, because it is symbolic. It is people questioning the rights of capital.”

The debt demands on Icelanders amounted to nothing less than “economic warfare,” said Birgitta Jonsdottir, who was elected to parliament last year as an anti-bailout candidate.

On Saturday, Iceland fought back.

Their “little bit of revolution” should spread to other countries—including the United States, which has saddled taxpayers with huge debts in order to bail out big banks and bad speculators.

The point here is not to say that there must be no consequences for bad policies on the parts of banks and governments. Of course, there are some responsibilities that must be met.

But the people who pay the taxes have a right to be a part of the decision-making process. And, in a democracy, voters have a right to say “no” when they recognize that they are being forced to pay for the dirty deals of the big bankers and the failures of governments and international agencies that were supposed to regulate the bankers.

“What you are seeing here is an outcome of 97 percent in some districts—98 percent in others—voting no,” said Eirigur Svavarsson, a lawyer who headed a group that opposed efforts to impose a deal on Iceland, as the results of the referendum vote were reported.

“Democracy is a strong tool,” explained Skulason. “We are saying this is an unreasonable agreement and we want a new agreement.”

That’s a reasonable demand—for Icelanders and Americans.

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License

John Nichols is a Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine.

Copyright © 2010 The Nation—distributed by Agence Global

Four Acres and Independence – A Self-Sufficient Farmstead

Watch this Thursday at 7:00 pm and next Tuesday at 3:30 pm on Nevada County Television (Channel 11), or simulcast on the internet.

by Janaia Donaldson

Take a tour, accompanied by curious sheep, of Mark Cooper’s self-sufficient small farm in Rough and Ready. Over several years, he transformed a rundown house and hillsides covered with berry brambles into pasture and gardens where he produces and preserves most of his family’s food.

Mark Cooper of Rough and Ready

Visit the Goose Grotto in a constructed pond, a heritage fruit tree orchard, oak logs producing shiitake mushrooms, and a cheap-and-easy container kitchen garden. All with the basic how-to’s for producing this abundance.

Mark gives us a closeup tour of the solar dehydrator he constructed from salvaged materials, along with his tips on food drying. He has husbanded up to fifty animals at a time, including two Tibetan yaks! This farmstead in Rough and Ready lives up to its name — and is a testament to hard work, wide-ranging construction skills, and love. (Peak Moment episode 168).

The program airs Thursday March 11 at 7:00 pm and Tuesday March 16 at 3:30 pm on comcast channel 11, Suddenlink channel 16 or simulcast live at www.nevadacountytv.org. The program will be on the Peak Moment website in about a month.

————————————————

Janaia Donaldson

Peak Moment: Locally Reliant Living for Challenging Times is an online television series showcasing people creating engaging lives and resilient communities for a more sustainable, lower-energy future.

164 programs are online at www.peakmoment.tv conversations and are cablecast on about fifty community access TV stations nationwide. Peak Moment Television is produced by Robyn Mallgren and Janaia Donaldson, Yuba Gals Independent Media of Nevada City, California.

We encourage you to share this email with your friends, colleagues and family. Peak Moment Television online videos, audios, and newsletter are FREE and are not supported by advertising. To enable us to continue, please consider contributing from $1 on up.

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