When Joe Wilson belched his infamous catcall “lair” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of the legislature, he revealed himself to be a poor example of a mature adult. Puddenhead Wilson’s emotional outburst may have played well with die hard Obama haters, indeed the next day his campaign war chest swelled by a million dollars; but it also sent a terrible message to America’s youth that its acceptable to disrespect your teachers, coaches, police officers or parents if you disagree with what they are saying. The fact that his campaign coffers swelled with contributions as a result of his offense compounded the power of the negative message it sent to youths and to the perpetrator himself. Awarding Puddenhead Wilson for his bad conduct only encourages him to repeat his offensive disrespectful behavior. It also sends a very poor message to America’s youth that bad behavior is OK and childish emotional outbursts may in fact find reward from enabling adults.
New Jersey Governor and emerging GOP superstar Chris Cristie, recently revealed himself to be a poor role model for the youth of America when he told a gathering of students that teachers greed was to blame for the lack of supplies and educational resources available for public schools. The Governors injection of politics into his presentation to Trenton students is a bit ironic. In his crusade against the teachers union, Christie has charged educators with using school children as “drug mules” to carry the message about the danger of funding reductions for public education. It would seem that the good Governor Christie needs to deliver a couple of kilos of his own to his adoring fans in the Tea Party and his financial backers in the GOP.
Putting partisan politics aside Christie’s message to public school students is extremely damaging. The public schools are under incredible pressure. All social institutions are engulfed in severe challenges and are fully engaged in crisis management mode. America’s public schools are not exempted from these pressures. The complex confluence of political, cultural and economic factors plaguing society are acutely manifested and constantly working to undermine the public school system. Governor Christie’s political rant to students throws gasoline on a combustible pile of institutional challenges confronting teachers and administrators. Like Puddenhead Wilson, the Jersey Doughboy gives tacit approval and encouragement for students to question the authority and motives of their teachers. Christie has just provided under-performing students a ready made excuse for failure and disruptive malcontents a lit match to throw onto a gasoline soaked pile of kindling encircling our public schools.
Christie’s partisanship places the context of his egregious mismanagement of the Race to the Top DOE grant in a new light. Perhaps Christie’s $400 million blunder was an intentional action to reduce resources to the public schools to undermine greedy teachers and their gluttonous union. Why would Christie enable the funding of whip cracking greed driven drug mule drivers? And like his killing of the DOT funded ARC tunnel project, Christie enhances his conservative street cred by punching the construction unions in the nose and telling the socialist government in Washington to spend its money elsewhere.
Like Puddenhead Wilson, Christie is cashing in on his actions and is building a nice portfolio of economic and political capital for himself. His remarks about the greedy teachers provide a convenient cover and solemn absolution for the grand practitioners of greed and avarice that have led this country to the brink of fiscal insolvency, cultural destitution and political bankruptcy. Christie’s narrative of blaming the needy plays well with large contributors who will be moved to put good 527 Corporation resources at his disposal to underwrite his political rise.
Christie’s midterm election barnstorming tour in service to the GOP booked him on a coast to coast tour that even his hero Bruce Springsteen would envy. Though Christie’s mojo clearly failed in helping Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina win election, the Jersey Doughboy’s political stock has risen so quickly that he felt compelled to send out a few tweets to deny he would run on a ticket with Sarah Palin for president in 2012.
So New Jersey is stuck with the doughy mess of big money winner take all partisan politics of Christie’s ideologically driven governorship for at least the next two years. Enjoying popular support for now, Christie’s considerable body mass currently displaces enough water to ride the wave of Tea Party conservatism. But if the fickle citizens of New Jersey make a slight left turn off Exit 16E on Thunder Road, Christie’s fortunes will drop faster then a lead sinker placed into the rancid brew seeping to perfection in a gaudy Royal Dalton Tea Pot.
You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run (Live Acoustic Version)
Risk: political, labor unions, public education, consensus
By the rivers of Babylon we sat
and wept when we remembered Zion.
It was the last concert ever to be held at Giants Stadium and the first time I would see Bruce Springsteen live. Situated between the exits 16E and 16W on Jersey’s own Thunder Road me and my friends arrived early to tailgate at the Meadowlands Stadium complex. We gobbled subs and washed them down with exotic bottled water imported from Long Island. We amused ourselves by watching the growing parade of Bruce fans cramming the highways that slowly inched toward entry gates granting license to plow through carousing crowds to search for a parking space. As a fiercely proud and life long resident of the Garden State this occasion was long overdue; but catching The Boss at the last concert at Giant Stadium made it extra special and worth the wait.
I grew up not far from the stadium. Fifty years ago I lived in a house on the rise on the western edge of the Meadowlands on Orient Way in Rutherford. As the crow flies it may be a mile and a half from the splash of asphalt I was now standing upon. As a child I remember being in awe at the vista that laid outside the window of my room. To a young lad the vast expanse of a seemingly endless grassland stretching beyond the bounds of my peripheral vision was my idea of a wild and untamed jungleland. I remember hearing tales of bottomless pits of hungry quicksand eagerly awaiting an opportunity to swallow unsuspecting little boys unfortunate enough to wander into the infinite expanse of tall reeds, thick grasses and towering bulrushes. Thinking back it was probably a story my parents told me to warn a young child off from the thought of a solo expedition to explore the intricate and dangerous swamp of rivers and rivulets weaving together the beautifully complex riparian ecosystem.
Half a century ago it was a common sight to see cars parked along the dirt roads that lined the tidal pools and estuaries of the Overpeck, Berry Creek and Hackensack River. The brackish waters of the Meadowlands sustained a rich biodiversity. It nourished interdependent communities of crabs, mussels, clams, fish and mammals that would grace Sunday afternoon dinner tables of intrepid trappers and fishermen that happily spent the day harvesting the bounty of the rich urban aquaculture. I would often imagine the sight of the ancient ones, engaging in the same activity, who centuries ago, situated on the banks of these same tributaries, pulling up nets bursting with fish, blessing the abundance the Great Spirit so richly conferred upon them as their rightful inheritance. As it says in the Old Testament “there is nothing new under the sun.”
My salami sub with mozzarella and roasted peppers was going down real good. Bite after bite it just tasted better and better but its good size and over apportionment of spicy meat and rich mootz was filling me up. I feared if I took one more bite it would burst my gut so I had to put it down, wrapped it back up and save the rest for tomorrows lunch.
To know when enough is enough is a virtue that we as a species are hard pressed to understand. If your full from a meal, saving a bit of the sandwich for tomorrows lunch is an example of moderation and a lesson in good stewardship. Nowhere on earth does the glaring examples of overindulgence, avarice, corruption and the pernicious wastefulness of corporate greed manifest itself in such a shocking manner as it does in the Meadowlands Complex. Two stadiums, a race track, an IZOD Center and a commercially bankrupt and aesthetic abomination called Xanadu forms the commercial polyglot known as the Meadowland Sports Complex. It is the finest work of commercial developers, financiers and local governments eager to cash in on ambivalent taxpayers and gullible local townsfolk believing billion dollar stadiums, built atop garbage laden landfills, financed with state bond issues will be sufficient to retain the loyalty of Jets, Giants, Nets and Devils. Desperate job seekers also hope to land a job as a beer vendor allowing them to walk up and down the windy steps of these sacred sports palaces to pay taxes to cover the loans on the stadiums.
When we entered the stadium complex looking for a place for our modest tailgate we wanted a space offering an easy exit from the incomprehensible mess of the parking lot. Unfortunately extracting ourselves and our fellow citizens from the unsustainable commercial, political and environmental mess created by the New Jersey Exposition and Sports Authority will be impossible for the many generations of Jerseyites that will follow in our footsteps. Our local governments have ceded stewardship responsibility of the Meadowlands to corporate developers. A corporate manager’s idea of stewardship is to extract a maximum amount of profit for shareholders in the shortest time frame possible. Corporations may come and go but the people of a community must remain. Sometimes left to pick up the pieces from the wreckage caused by ill advised development and are tasked to restore the delicate balance of nature with the complex ecosystem of stakeholders. Well considered balance is the cornerstone of effective stewardship and is essential to a community’s long term sustainability, wellness and growth.
The Meadowlands is dealing with the wreckage caused by EnCap. EnCap acted like a pernicious organized crime syndicate. It operated with the complicit support of local governments, business associations and sophisticated private equity investors that conspired to loot public treasuries, steal public lands, and secure licenses to dump toxic waste into the delicate Meadowlands ecosystem. The Meadowlands Sports Complex should be considered a white collar crime scene. Xanadu, yet another needless mall of America is an aesthetic abomination. It remains unoccupied and sits like a useless heap of garbage as another crass commercial scar on a once pristine riparian ecology. Where crabbers would gather on afternoons to harvest a natural bounty; the garish presence of Xanadu now presides like a festering scab, concealing a cancerous tumor, implanted by the toxic greed of EnCap, metastasizing in the gooey mush of the meadowlands good earth.
When they broke ground on the Sports Complex in the early 1970’s they discovered that highly toxic mercury levels polluted the water and earth in wide swaths of the development zone. The pollution was the remnants of a long departed manufacturer. The remedy was to encase the mercury in a plastic sheet. The mercury poisoning forever altered the delicate ecology of the meadowlands leading one to believe that this would make current developers and planners more sensitive to the ecological impact of development. But the anti regulatory mindset that has pervaded government and business partnerships has opened the door for environmental assaults as exemplified in this most recent example by EnCap.
As show time approached, the parking lot was growing more crowed. The growing party of revelers spread out their tables, coolers and barbecues to celebrate the momentous event. As the smoke from the fires rose into the air I recalled a vivid vision from my youth. One evening as I peered out my window, I witnessed the night sky frame a line of fire extending to the outer reaches of my vision. The conflagration consumed the reeds and tall grasses of the meadowlands. The flaming horizon was an electric line of agitated orange that reached ever upward. The fire danced against the ghostly backdrop of the lighted Manhattan skyline. The combustible apparition of angry flames appeared to threaten the looming silver skyscrapers lining The Avenue of the America’s.
The image of that fire will always haunt me. It heralded the drastic turn in the nature of the meadowlands. The fires were clearing space for the industrial parks, land fills and new commercial enterprises desperately needed for the rapidly expanding American economy. The waterways and aquaculture of the meadowlands were incompatible with the economic needs of our changing nation. Clean water, vibrant stocks of fish, rich flora, birds and mammals were something we willingly sacrificed at the alter of economic progress. Today during these austere times, when the gods of economic progress have seemingly abandoned us; we should make it a point to visit the empty malls and walk through the unoccupied office spaces purchased with the sacrifice of our natural environment to the fickle gods of economic progress.
Fire and water is an eternal dance of opposites that continuously engages a dynamic dialectic heralding a harbinger of change that always moves to restore a balance in the cycle of opposites. The fire of development that consumed the meadowlands of my youth may now be snuffed out by the waters of a changing time seeking to restore a sustainable balance for future generations. This will indeed please the Great Spirit. The Boss began the concert with a tune he wrote for this special occasion. It would be a good idea to take a wrecking ball to the unsightly Xanadu mistake as a first step in restoring the meadowlands to its true natural glory.
You Tube Video: Bruce Springsteen: Oh Mary Don’t You Weep No More
Risk: sustainability, environment, commerce
Artwork for this post is by Susan K. Arnold, By the Waters of Babylon.
This post is written in participation for Blog Action Day. Theme is water.
What a difference a year makes. A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system. They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid. Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat. Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our distressed ship of state. The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation. The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed. Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed. Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability. President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).
Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC. Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs. A few of the bigger cats were no shows. They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport. They called in to attend the summit by phone. Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to SMEs. Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country. Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending is good for profits. A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery. A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is the economic security and political stability of the nation. These are the worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.
The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives. Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics. Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses. Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems. Now that the banks capital base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.
According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter. This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending. The decline in lending is a serious barrier to economic recovery. Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations. The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated, “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”
The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth. The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk. But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation. If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP. This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs. It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and bankruptcies will continue to rise. Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health and long term sustainability.
The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.
SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks. Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management. Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability. Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers. Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.
Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs. The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME managers. SME managers can demonstrate to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.
On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks. Using programs like the Profit|Optimizer, SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers. SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system. Now is the time for all bankers to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore economic growth and the wealth of our nation.
You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Seeger Sessions, Pay Me My Money Down
Risk: banking, credit, SME
Lost in the euphoria of Barack Obama’s electoral triumph is todays rude reminder of the the continued deterioration of the economy. ADP published its monthly report on employment yesterday revealing that the US economy shed another 157,000 jobs during the month of October.
According to the report, “large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline 41,000, while medium-size companies with between 50 and 499 workers declined 91,000. Employment among small-size businesses, defined as those with fewer than 50 workers, declined 25,000. This is the first outright decline in small business employment reported by the ADP Report since November of 2002, and the largest percentage decline since the economy was emerging from recession in early 2002.”
The recession is now enveloping small businesses. This is a most ominous sign. It should be born in mind that the ADP report usually reports numbers that are not as severe as numbers that the Department of Labor will issue later this week.
Not surprisingly manufacturing lost 85,000 jobs during the month. This was the 26th consecutive monthly decline for the sector.
President elect Obama will have a tough row to hoe. The revival of the economy will be a prolonged and difficult effort requiring patience and careful attention to undo three decades of erosion to the countries industrial infrastructure. Sum2 advocates The Hamilton Plan as a recovery program for the economy and SME manufactures.
Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Pay Me My Money Down
Risk: recession, industrial capacity, unemployment
Real Americans have spoken!
President Elect Senator Barack Obama.
Senator Obama ran a masterful campaign.
My countrymen have chosen well.
The election is over.
The hard work begins.
We salute the winner
the American people and our democratic republic.
“With Malice toward none, with charity for all,
with firmness in the right,
as God gives us to see the right,
let us strive on to finish the work we are in,
to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
We offer songs and celebratory film.
You tube music videos:
Edwin Hawkins Singers, Oh Happy Day!
Brooklyn Funk Essentials: The Creator Has a Master Plan
Appalachian Spring: Aaron Copeland
With Malice Towards None:
Ben Selvin and the Crooners, Happy Days are Here Again
Aretha Franklin: I Say A Little Prayer
Mavis Staples: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA (acoustic)
Keep democracy strong.
Use it or lose it.
You Tube video:
Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA (acoustic)
James Cagney: Yankee Doodle
Mitch Miller: Longest Day March
Mavis Staples: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
Woody Guthrie: This land is Your Land
Ray Charles: America the Beautiful
Johnny Cash: Ballad of Ira Hayse
Johnny Cash: The One on the Right
The America experiment in democracy is still a light to the nations
and the worlds greatest hope.
God bless us all.