Monday, 8 March 2010

2010: The Mouse That Roared

There's a great movie from the 1959....entitled: The Mouse That Roared. It's basically a story about this tiny kingdom in Europe....that has done everything possible to exist but really needs to have a war which they can lose and then get all this vast financial help. It's a Peter Sellers movie that makes you laugh at every turn in the story.

Fifty years have passed. Now, we've got a real-world "mouse" that's embarking on a roar of sorts.

When the financial meltdown started up last year in Europe....there was this little island nation of Iceland sitting there. They had this bank....Landsbanki....that was bringing in all this vast money from Europe as investment capital. Things were hot in Iceland for the past decade.

I sat and watched a economic report back in 2007....when the leadership of Iceland were talking up the future and the vast "model" that they had built. The bankers were in on these interviews and chatting about a dynamic course in Icelandic history that they were charting. They did interviews on the street with people who were all happy about the three McDonalds in Iceland, the new storefronts coming onto the island, and the great business empire that they were building.

I sat there....and kept think how this made any sense. This was an island where the cost of living was ridiculous and there was no natural materials or 5-star products that Iceland could deliver. If you wanted a meal downtown....you were talking about $30 per person. Nothing made sense.

So the meltdown came.....and the Landsbanki failed. The curious thing....was that $5.3 billion was owed to folks from the Netherlands and the UK. In the minds of those folks.....they were owed money.

This past week.....a vote was held in Iceland. The choice was.....pay back the $5.3 billion to these 350,000-odd folks or just say "sorry". The $5.3 billion equaled $65k to every household in Iceland. You can guess the feeling here. Ninety-three (93) percent of the public said no....they were sorry and thats just about all you can get.

There are three observations to make over this mess.

First, the opportunity of capital to be brought into Iceland for future business growth? It's virtually dead at this point. Some people will talk in a positive sense.....but the guys with real money....aren't going to come to Iceland for the foreseeable future. It might be a decade or even two decades before they forget about this mess, this vote, and these circumstances.

Second, lots of Iceland people take this debt as something personal. It bothers them to some extent that they owe money and it's beyond any realistic ability to ever pay this back. But the unreal extent of this.....boggles their mind.

Third and final.....there is this comparison to Cuba. The New York Times came to Iceland and interviewed a number of folks over this story. One was Elisabet Run Sigurdardottir....a student. She says at one point: “In the worst case, in 20 years we will be like Cuba, with lots of old cars. Only our old cars will be Range Rovers.”

In The Mouse That Roared...there was a great ending where the mighty US came to conquer the tiny nation in the end....and step in to save the poor "mouse". The problem today....is that the US actually owes even more money than the "mouse".....and other than stimulus money....there's not much we can offer except a Gitmo prison operation.

I'm guessing in ten years....we will find this tiny nation of Iceland sitting there. The big-talking bankers will have moved on and life will be fairly simple. Maybe it will be a little like Cuba. They defaulted and just laughed at the debt owed. Maybe there's a lesson for us here. Maybe.

The Significance of Change (or Lack of It)c

Some guys from the ACLU got their money together and decided it was time to slam the President a bit....asking him via the New York Times....if he really was a "change" guy.

We are barely fourteen months into this Presidency....and its kinda surprising that this type of ad would appear in the New York Times....and question the President in such a manner. What the ACLU is starting to get upset over...is this rumor that the New York City trials of the terror suspects....are about to be changed over to a military court structure and taken out of New York City entirely.

If you got back to the 1950s or 1960s....no newspaper in America would have taken such an ad. It would have been considered in bad taste

But we aren't in that 1960's era....and bad taste be damned....the public and the media are accepting of it.

A humble observation of the past twelve months?

Most promises made during the election period.....weren't kept....but it's the normal practice to promise 300 things and just deliver on fifty of them. The problem is that this new crowd kinda expected over half of the promises to be kept. This bold new voting public....sits in disbelief of a lack of accomplishment.

In the midst of a fairly bad economic downtown.....rather than set your sights on jobs and the economy......you load up every gun you've got with universal health care bullets. So far, you've fired every single bullet and have yet to bag the big "beast" itself....and the hunt just might end in three weeks.....without a single trophy for your den. Meanwhile.....you could have done much with the economy and made people happy in the employed sense.

The war and Gitmo? For every two positive steps....there's one stumble. Call it lessons learned and maybe that's acceptable because there's no real script for cleaning up either mess. The problem is that you upset some New Yorkers without ever asking if this was a smart idea or not.

More of the Bush agenda? The funny thing is that this administration just might continue this trend for seven more years.....and get itself another Nobel Peace Prize....for mostly acting like George Bush. That's acceptable.....well.....if you sip enough Jacky D's and Old Milwaukee and California Red Truck wine.

So as you big-time players gaze at the New York Times and laugh over the ad.....consider this....a bunch of ACLU players had tons of money to throw at the Times for this ad. Sadly.....rather than give it to some lobbyists or some Senator's election run.....they tossed it to the Times. That in itself might be a more interesting story to view.

Course....comparing Obama to Bush....invites hours and hours of pondering. Surely we've got something better to do?