Friday, November 21, 2008

FromDC2Iowa's Weekend Edition

November 21, 2008, 4:00 p.m.; November 22, 2008, 6:00 a.m. (addition of "The Answer to Global Economic Collapse")

Odds, Ends and Updates from

"Live From Prairie Lights" Cancellation.

Program supporters use United Nations' "shock and awe" in war on Iowa Public Radio executives. See, Nicholas Johnson, "Public Radio's Self-Inflicted Wounds," November 11, 12, 18, 20, 21, 2008.

The High Price of Peremptory Firing: Jones sues for $2.25 million

Phillip Jones, 68, was dismissed as vice president for student services Sept. 23 by UI president Sally Mason. In his [$2.25 million wrongful termination] claim to the Iowa Board of Appeals, Jones claims the firing was inappropriate and that it caused emotional distress and damaged his personal and professional integrity. . . .

"The wrongful termination of Dr. Phillip E. Jones has caused him irreparable harm," his claim states. "He was placed in a false light in the professional community by the allegations adopted from the Stolar report and redistributed by the (Iowa state) Board of Regents and (UI) President (Sally) Mason." . . .

The claim . . . identifies more than $680,000 in professional losses. It states that from Sept. 24 to June 30, 2009, Jones would lose more than $180,000 in earnings, UI contributions, health insurance, flexible spending account, accumulation of vacation payout and other incidentals.

The claim also identifies $500,000 in potential earnings losses, saying Jones planned to retire from UI and work as a higher education consultant.
Brian Morelli, "Jones files $2.25 million wrongful termination claim with state," Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 21, 2008, p. A1. See generally, Nicholas Johnson, "University of Iowa Sexual Assault Controversy -- 2007-08."

The Answer to Global Economic Collapse
Looking for the answer to the global economic depression toward which we seem to be headed with ever-greater acceleration?

"Look North, young man, look north."

["'Go west, young man' [was] a favorite saying of the nineteenth-century journalist Horace Greeley, referring to opportunities on the frontier. Another writer, John Soule, apparently originated it." The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd ed., 2002.]

It turns out that delivery of basic health care to an entire nation's population at reasonable cost is not the only thing Canada has to teach us.

Let's hope our new Secretary of the Treasury designate,Timothy F. Geithner, currently president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York [Jackie Calmes, "For Treasury, Geithner Said to Be Choice," New York Times, November 21, 2008] -- the mere rumor and announcement of whom boosted stock market measures by 5 to 6 percent -- who has plenty of credentials of his own, is willing to listen to one of the youngest financial regulators of the G-7 and G-20, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of Canada.

If he wants to literally listen, I'd recommend Carney's participation in the BBC's current "The Interview" program -- being Internet-broadcast as I write this (I listened to it being broadcast live earlier), but soon to be available for streaming or download. If Geithner wants to read what he's written, I'd recommend Carney's recent talk in London to the Canada-United Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, Mark Carney, "Building Continuous Markets," November 19, 2008.

Carney avoids sounding either critical of his peers, or unduly self-promotional. But facts are facts, and he doesn't hide them. Here is an excerpted paragraph describing Canada's current position:

Canada's experience is instructive. While Canada's financial system has been affected by the crisis in global financial markets, the impact has been significantly less than in many other major economies, not least because Canada is further along than others in implementing the G-7 Action Plan. Canada starts with financial institutions that are healthier than their international peers. Not merely have losses on structured products of Canadian banks been modest, but more importantly, their absolute leverage is markedly lower. As a simple illustration, major Canadian banks have an average asset-to-capital multiple of 18 on a consolidated basis, which is slightly below the regulatory maximum of 20. The comparable figure for U.S. investment banks is over 25. For . . . some major global banks, it is over 40. While foreign banks are in the process of moving towards Canadian levels, our banks obviously face no such pressures. In addition, the quality of Tier 1 capital of Canadian banks is among the strongest in the world.
There is no "executive summary" or "take-away" from his remarks that encapsulates all of his observations and suggestions. You need to read it all. But as we all spiral down during the next two to five years I suspect he will continue to be someone whose words are very much worth your time.

Auto Bailout: "Show Me the . . . Plan"

On November 19 I offered an "open letter" to my Senators and Congressional representative. I identified five categories of questions for which I requested their response. Not incidentally, that blog entry has now been sent to the three of them (as recommended by a reader who included that suggestion in a comment); if and when I get responses I'll include them in that blog entry.

The last of the questions was: "Where on the Internet can I find the business plan that you are presumably relying upon that documents, precisely, how this $25 billion is to be used, and how, why and when it will solve these three companies' problems, revive the industry, and why it will eliminate any need for them to regularly return to you for more taxpayer money?" Nicholas Johnson, "Auto Bailout: An Open Letter to Congress," November 19, 2008.

Two days later the New York Times reports that apparently the same question has now occurred to Congress -- days after they signed on the line their support for the $25 billion bailout, plan or no plan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is now quoted as saying, "Until we can see a plan where the auto industry is held accountable and a plan for viability on how they go into the future — until we see the plan, until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money.” Majority Leader Harry Reid adds, "The executives of the auto companies have not been able to convince Congress or the American people that this government bailout will be its last.” David M. Herszenhorn, "Detroit’s Bid for Aid Fails — For Now," New York Times, November 21, 2008.

Conflicts Over Conflict of Interest

As of this afternoon (November 21) it is looking increasingly likely that Senator Hillary Clinton will be President Obama's Secretary of State. Peter Baker, "Clinton Decides to Accept Post at State Dept., Confidants Say" New York Times, November 21, 2008.

That being the case, there are serious potential conflict of interest issues surrounding her husband's activities.

The Obama transition team is focused on the wide array of Mr. Clinton’s postpresidential activities, some details of which have not been made public. This list includes the identity of most of the donors to his foundation, the source of some of his speaking fees — he has earned as much as $425,000 for a one-hour speech — and his work for the billionaire investor Ronald W. Burkle.

The vetting of Mr. Clinton’s myriad philanthropic and business dealings is “complicated, and it may be the complications that are causing hesitation on both sides,” said Abner J. Mikva, one of Mr. Obama’s closest supporters and a White House counsel during the Clinton administration. “There would have to be full disclosure as to who all were contributors to his library and foundation. I think they’d have to be made public.” . . .

“It’s not just what he does or says — it’s the fact that the foundation is involved with foreign countries, some of which might well be in conflict with U.S. policy,” Mr. Mikva said. “It’s more than a legal problem — there are ethical problems and appearance problems.”
Don Van Natta Jr. and Jo Becker, "Many Dealings of Bill Clinton Are Under Review," New York Times, November 17, 2008.

Nor is that the only potential cabinet appointment raising such issues.

President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of former Senator Tom Daschle for secretary of health and human services posed new questions on Wednesday about how broadly the new administration would apply Mr. Obama’s campaign promises to limit potential conflicts of interest among his appointees. . . .

Former Senator and Majority Leader Tom Daschle's "firm represents dozens of [health care] concerns including pharmaceutical companies, health care providers, and trade groups for nurses and nursing homes" and notes that it "has the significant advantage of including two former U.S. Senate majority leaders — Senators Bob Dole and Tom Daschle." Daschle also serves on the board of the Mayo Clinic, which "is itself a major health care provider, research institution, and recipient of grants from the National Institutes of Health." Moreover, Daschle's "wife, Linda Daschle, is a prominent lobbyist for aerospace and military concerns."
David D. Kirkpatrick, "Obama's Pick of Daschle May Test Conflict-of-Interest," New York Times, November 19, 2008.

Et tu, NPR? Gardiner Harris, "Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties," New York Times, November 21, 2008: "An influential psychiatrist [Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health] who served as the host of public radio’s popular 'The Infinite Mind' program earned at least $1.3 million between 2000 and 2007 giving marketing lectures for drug makers, income not mentioned on the program. . . . In October, [Senator] Grassley revealed that Dr. Charles B. Nemeroff of Emory University, one of the nation’s most influential psychiatric researchers, earned more than $2.8 million in consulting arrangements with drug makers from 2000 to 2007, failed to report at least $1.2 million of that income to his university and violated federal research rules.

How to Manipulate Media

And while we're on the subject of the media, for a very inside and insightful explanation of how celebrities control what we think of them, and how and why the media goes along, take a look at Brooks Barnes, "Angelina Jolie's Carefully Orchestrated Image," <i>New York Times, November 20, 2008.

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