Monday, 1 September 2014

An Icelandic Story

Sometimes, I'll write out a blog over a small piece of make you sit and think.

For about a decade.....until 2008....Iceland was considered this marvelous miracle of sorts when it came to the economy.  They were booming.  Sixty Minutes went and did an episode to show the success of the banking system, and how many start-up companies were succeeding.  Reykjavik, the capital, home to 118,000 residents.....had become a great place to live.

In 2008.....the US economic stumble occurred with the housing market and these "investment-bundles" that various international banks had purchased....soured.

Reykjavik had three significant banks (Kaupthing, Glitnir, and Landsbanki).  All three had bought heavily into the US housing market, then marketed themselves across Europe as investment opporutnities.  For at least a decade.....they had Germans, French, English, Dutch, etc.....buying into the "guaranteed profits" scheme.  What they could say for this entire that this bundled package deal got you more percentage points than an average savings account. It made no one could really explain the risk in any detail (that kinda helped).

In October of 2008.....the fall occurred, and no one in the federal government of Iceland could imagine any method to saving the three banks.  Total cash impact.....three times the GDP of Iceland.

By the spring of 2009.....most Icelanders had come to realize the massive problem left to them.  You couldn't get a loan for anything.  Most business operations were suffering because they had to import, and the whole method of trusting the banking system to deliver or pay-off was screwed up.

You could say that the entire year of 2009 left a sour taste in the mouths of most Icelandic people.....and those around the capital of Reykjavik were amazed at the mighty fall of the local economy.  Even the McDonalds in town folded up and left.  It reached a point where people started to be more sarcastic and more cynical than what you'd normally expect.

On the whole.....Icelandic people have a pretty "Mayberry-like" sense of humor.  They can tell a long-winded comic story in a serious fashion, and you the listener or viewer.....avoid grinning but you are fairly amused at the outcome.

So by the end of 2009.....there's this Icelandic comedian....Jon Knarr.  Jon is fairly well known around Iceland.  With a island population of 320,'s safe to say that the vast number of comedians number less than fifty, and if you make to state-run TV....virtually everyone knows your act and your gimmicks.

Jon makes this decision for the Reykjavik city mayor's election in the spring of 2010.  Six months out.....Jon puts together what is referred to as a political party (to be called "The Best Party").  Yeah, I's a hokey name but Jon didn't really want a five or six-letter party tag, and best always means something positive.

Then, Jon went out and displayed himself as a mayor candidate.  He promised various thing: free towels at the city pool, a new polar bear for the city zoo, and a sustainable transparency (yeah, folks are still pondering that meaning).

It's safe to say as Jon traveled across the city...shook hands....did presentations....and was interviewed by the state-run radio stations.....he made an impression.

Reykjavik folks, after viewing the October 2008 economic fall, and the dismal period 2009.....were pretty tired and dismal on all political parties.  Whatever they were talking about.....just wouldn't work anymore.

Jon was the bogus candidate that they needed.  They wanted to send a message across to all political parties in the city of Reykjavik.....frustration with regular BS....wasn't going to work anymore.  They wanted a comedian....spouting bogus represent them.

So the Best Party went into the May 2010 election, and got around thirty-five percent of the vote.  This translated into six seats on the fifteen member city council, and Jon was elected mayor.

To be humble about this....I personally don't think Jon expected these kind of results and I suspect he was a bit shocked.

Jon has done the four-year 'tour' as mayor and quietly said that was enough for him.  The Best Party?  They've done OK.

My favorite political promise made by this group?  They sat there and promised free city-bus rides for students and disabled folks.  Then, in the same paragraph....they admitted that they will offer more promises than any other party.....because they don't intend to follow through with it.  They readily admitted that in the same comment.  They even made the comparison of free airline flights for women or  free cars for folks way out in the boonies of Iceland.

The truth is.....a majority of people in Reykjavik have grown tired of political promises and bickering. Their frustration is obvious.

So, we gaze around the US, and find the same crowd existing in a frustrated state of mind.

All fifty states will tell you that they have enough laws in place to prevent nutcases or comedians from getting on the Presidential ballot.  Just having a thousand folks in a state to support some comedian won't amount to any placement on the ballot.

But we've done a curious thing.  State by state.....we've been busy changing the method by which electoral college votes are rendered.  We are enabling this method of "winner-take-all" votes in various states.  The original gimmick was to ensure that large urban area political candidate could take massive votes in cities like Chicago, New York, Miami and LA.....and launch a guy to get more popular votes than electoral votes.....then he'd win the race. can sit now and imagine a race where a comedian puts himself up as a frustration-voter alternate candidate.  If the state had rules to prevent him from the ballot....fine, he'd just run as a write-in.  So, you could imagine a third-party guy suddenly taking the fifty states.....getting just enough popular votes and a limited number of  electoral college votes.....suddenly getting the "winner-take-all" vote states.

A Jon Knarr-character could suddenly be President of the United States, and shock both the Republicans and Democrats.  And he might be radical and popular enough to even win a second election.

If you had stood up a decade ago in Reykjavik and said that the city would fall apart in the economic sense, and some comedian and his political party would take over city one would have believed you.  I think we are at the same stage in America.

We just need an American-style Best Party...promising free ice cream for minority students, water-slides in every under-developed community of America, ridding us of the designated-hitter rule in the American League, promising a tax credit for lawn mower purchases, and forcing up a law requiring all Senators to spend ninety days a year in their home state.  That's enough to get forty percent of the national vote, and force both Republicans and Democrats to some form of reality.