Archive for the ‘Transparency International’ Category

Uproar Over immigration

July 25, 2014

Three of my  four grandparents were immigrants.  When they immigrated, there  weren’t so many regulations or controls, If you could get transport into the USA…you were IN.  That’s how it went.  In fact, my father’s grandfather came over before  WWI, looking for work…leaving behind (in Germany) a wife with 6 kids, He said he’d send for her.  I’m not sure how long the interval was, but she ended up coming to the USA with 6 kids, to find her husband, and  later had twins.

Over 20 years ago, I dated an African man who was in the  USA to  get his Ph. D.  His government was paying for it.  He was ABD (all but dissertation).  he told me he was working on it (he was defending single party systems, saying that they had factions, and that was like having a multi-party system in government..), but  some time just before i met him, his country devalued  their currency, and his  scholarship was cut.  He was floundering.  he  wouldn’t prepare to defend his dissertation because  nobody would hear it.  his tuition wasn’t paid, and he didn’t have the money to pay it. He was  really opposed to  taking  short term employment until his African friends made it clear to him he had no choice.

I knew there was a program to repatriate Africans who wished to return to their home countries.  I tried calling the Immigration and Naturalization office in Chicago, and  the line was busy constantly—like the phone was off the hook. After weeks of this, I gave up.

I don’t know how many Americans are aware of this, but around WWII, when many Jewish refugees from Europe were attempting to get into the USA, Congress started tinkering with the rules. There are arbitrary  quotas  for virtually every country:  if you are a political refugee, you get special consideration. Same for economic refugees, people fleeing violence…but also, if you want to come and invest money in the economy here, you can JUMP THE QUEUE.  That’s how many  Europeans manage to  do this. Same with Indians.  This is true  for most countries:  they have rules that state you are investing (so you are not a drain on their economies), and you can get permanent residency status.

Some countries pay lobbyists to lobby our congressmen  on behalf of well  connected individuals.  This is how the bin Ladin  family had so many people living in the USA at the time of 911—and why they were protected by the Bush administration.  This is not hearsay.


So this year, 2014,  due to a rumor (when you are illiterate, or don’t have access to news media—or your GOVERNMENT CONTROLS THE NEWS), we’re having an influx of CHILDREN coming from Central America.  Not Mexico—but Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, fleeing violence.

The way this is being reported, it seems as though their parents are sending them…to find relatives and have a better  shot at life.   Unfortunately, this is only  about 10% true.  How do I know?  I have friends who have supported   development in  central American countries for over  40 years.  How many governments  have we meddled in or over thrown?     How many dictators have we supported so  United Fruit could sell us cheap bananas?  I know…’we’ didn’t know.  We didn’t have a clue.  We don’t read newspapers, and  if we looked at a world map, we could not even find these countries.

You might notice no kids are coming from Nicaragua or Costa Rica.  Their governments are more stable.  That is not to say we  didn’t meddle. It is to say that we meddled more in the other governments and  the result  is that there is no confidence in the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador to  invest in infrastructure or to protect citizens from violence.   Heck, we have the same problems here in many inner city neighborhoods:  the plan  is really to contain violence to  neighborhoods we ‘disinvest’. so the developers can get cheap land and start over.

I am  sort of  shocked by the  many pro-lifers (people who believe in the philosophy of when life begins) who are protesting  the kids.  In most cases, a parent did NOT send them here.  A mother might have kicked the kid out or not been feeding the kid—but the daddy is long gone, In fact, many countries do not let a mother bring a child over a border unless she has permission  from the father—a guy she hasn’t seen since the kid  was conceived.  Remember—many of the mommies are barely literate.  These are also ‘Catholic’ countries.  Even if you could afford  birth control—there is none to be bought.  They all have informal sector economies.  For most of the kids—some as young as  four years old…who followed older kids— they just kept walking.

Interesting…nobody in Mexico  notices.  They were just ignored. Not their problem.  They were heading for us.  We are  protesting that we can’t afford them.  Somebody tell me what we got for the trillions of dollars we spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?  That money could have gone for schools and media infrastructure  in the USA and other places.  But Dick Cheney and Haliburton  knew who  to  impress.

I am not sure what the answer is  since we gambled  our future revenues away on Republican idiocy…with the tacit  approval of the Democrats…but we caused the problem.

So—here’s the REAL problem:  we are running out of clean water. Due to fracking, and pulling water out of aquifers without replacing it, we are in a crisis.  We know the solution is not just to be more conservative, but to quit breeding ourselves!  Yet, how many people in the USA have taken a high school biology or ecology class?  How many of us know  what population crash is?  Yet the media seems to glorify and honor  parents who choose to bear  over a dozen children!   18 kids and counting! What a miracle!  & they home school!  How many of those  future citizens are learning  actual  science?  Biology?  Ecology?   Physics?  That’s where our problem is—- not a bunch of desperate little kids!

The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sachs (book review)Now all we Need is the Money!

September 13, 2012

We all want to end poverty and injustice.  It’s why I joined Peace Corps:  t do my part.  There are some small things  people can do that make a big difference.    The Grameen Bank was revolutionary.  However, where there is no local political will things get complicated, and unjust.  You can not give people power, They must take it.  Also,  you can’t do just 1 thing.

Worth  reading is Jeffrey Sachs book, The End of Poverty.  It’s much longer than it needs to be, but  he spends about half the book  justifying his credentials.  I have no problem with that.  He’s obviously an extremely talented economist.  He also managed to be in the right place at the right time to be able to earn his street cred.

When I originally hears about his Millenium Developement Goals, I thought he was very arrogant. This guy is, essentially, a jet setting  policy wonk, flitting all over the world and hob-nobbing with elites.  What could he possibly know about  poverty?  Well, he made a point to educate himself.  He understood, that for every  economic crisis he  helped fix, he caused other problems.    That was before he started addressing acute poverty.

What I particularly like about the book, and what absolutely everyone in the developed (that is, North America, Europe, much of Southeast Asia, and a few very wealthy islands) world should understand,is,  what he addresses on pages 252—255 in his Chapter 13:  Making the Investment Needed to End Poverty.  He justifies why governments need to make infrastructure and social investments that ultimately benefit us all.  That  create economic vitality.  That’s it. Bottom line.

The trouble is….the IMF and World Bank are still their own fiefdoms and supported,  for no logical reason, by donor countries, including the USA…And they still allow—heck—they FUND  corruption and mismanagement.

Sachs discounts the impact of corruption (it probably is only 20% of why there is poverty in Africa), and spends a decent part of this book explaining to  World Bank and IMF funders that if they  funded what is proven to work, instead of their cronies’ schemes,  all humans could have a decent standard of living—but they don’t give a shit.  Full stop.  However,  while he is excellent with the numbers, as an economist, he  believes the  amount of aid should be based on a country’s GNP.  In theory, that’s a great idea.  Unfortunately, for the developed world,  were there surplus GNP,  we’d be paying the debt for the  stupid wars we’ve engaged in, as well as the politicians/government workers unfunded pension plans.

Sachs then  expresses astonishment at the Bush era tax cuts to the wealthy, making the rich richer.   While he got the Gates Foundation, and a few other  compassionate uber-wealthy  donors on board—well, he didn’t get Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and a bunch of people who believe that capitalism is really about who dies with the most money. Otherwise, their greed & selfishness makes no sense.  I think that Sachs  realized he’s been working for the wrong team for too many years.

As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, working in Malawi, where hunger, chronic disease, and lack of political will destroyed a society, I agree with Sachs’ approach, and in fact, there are many small groups trying to help distinct communities. I  support several.  However, Sachs is right:  the capital is there.  Just not the political will.  & face it: our  ‘development’ policy, whether put forth by Republicans or Democrats, is to make the rich richer.

The late Wangari Maathai really did so much in Kenya, and her work was often sabotaged by the Kenyan government.  I  believe  Sachs gives too big a pass to the many  sub-Saharan governments he claims are well-managed, without addressing their political will.

If you don’t know anything about why so much of Africa is impoverished, this is a good read  to supplement much of what else is written about development economics. As Americans, we have to understand that  we have allowed our government to support war to benefit elites over  poverty  eradication which, ironically, would have gotten rid out our enemies for good more quickly.

I am an anarchist. Let’s start with that.

August 31, 2012

Those  who know me would say, “Of course!”  Let’s get serious.  What does being an anarchist mean?  Are we the same as libertarians?  We share so many of the same values, it’s really hard to tell, but  the difference  is how we get to the end result of the government falling away. Karl Marx developed the theory that labor would organize itself, and labor unions would run the government.  That’s it in a nutshell.  As we Jews say, the rest is commentary.  This was at a time when labor was not really organized, and the thought was that labor would organize as industrial unions, not business unions, like what we actually have.

Anarchists  don’t believe in no government. They believe in small government—like the libertarians do.  We aren’t generally violent people, although the  writers of American history would have us believe Sacco & Vanzetti were  bomb throwers (it couldn’t possibly have been the police starting a riot…)

I came to anarchism through industrial unionism… syndicalism…and the Industrial Workers of the World. For those who don’t know anything about the Wobblies, you might get Patrick Renshaw’s book, or rent Warren Beatty’s movie, Reds (which is part documentary & interviews with old Wobs, as we were called).

We believe workers should run the economy…the government, and that the boss is useless.  I would general digress now about how difficult it is for dog groomers to work for non-dog groomers who are business owners, and who want to exploit our labor, but this is not why I am blogging about anarchism.

The problem is…that our needs in modern, urban, society are complicated and require full time oversight.  This would leave little time for economic activity to support our community’s needs:  planning, developing, and caring for infrastructure, energy resources, schools and education, health care, security, and information  communication  and distribution.

So—we have an overlay of bureaucracy to take care of  stuff’. They have to get paid, so we tax ourselves.

But then..the dynamic changes, and the politicians we elect seem to think that they really provide an added value, as do the employees they oversee that are working for us. They get much better benefits than the rest of us, including their pension plans…and the result is, of course, that so many government entities are now declaring bankruptcy.

I am an old lady now. The billions we could have spent on  teaching teachers to teach science, to provide health car  cradle to grave, to develop and renewable energy resources… we spend on the wars in Viet Nam, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Bosnia, Somalia (but not Rwanda)…so people could be free?  We allowed the people we elected to underfund out schools,  pander to teachers’ unions (how ironic is this?)deny us health care as a human right (unless we live to be very old), bail out banks & AIG—the insurance company too big to fail—in place of environmental and economic security…what is this about?

We parrot that the USA is the greatest country in the world, and  we are, essentially, as bad as the Russians: buffoons to the rest of the world.

I am not sure what the solution is, but  now that we have the internet, I would think it would be easier for people to get more information and be a little skeptical about what we all think is the conventional wisdom.

Government Employee Corruption

June 28, 2012

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi, over 20 years ago. I was an urban planner, & my task was mostly development control. The government  employees were not able to limit illegal developments of public buildings due to developers paying off politicians. So, they needed an outsider  who was not beholden to anyone to get  things straightened out.

When I first got there, my counterparts, honest young men, told me I didn’t know what it was like. I told them. “I am from Chicago. We have had a single party system for over 30 years, I know EXACTLY what it is like.”

But what I found was that the Africans are no more corrupt than anywhere else.  It’s the same where ever you go—except in the USA, the government employees often use legal loopholes to  steal.

Witness the front page story in The Chicago Tribune June 22, 2012, on how Craig Bazzani, a University of Illinois administrator– a vice president of business & finance who RETIRED IN 2002—managed to increase his  $300,000+ pension by about $42,ooo due to a legal strategy.  Well, it wasn’t illegal.  Unethical?  Obviously, the  Trib dances around this.  But that is what the reporters infer. The gist is that Bazzani was able to increase his pension by using a formula intended for police & fire personnel.  A change  in the state law allowed those in supervisory positions to  be eligible to  extra pension benefits. We generally call it double dipping.

Don’t forget, our state & federal legislators are also  entitled to  pensions based on their full pay at retirement (or when they get unelected), and  also, if they had other government positions, collect that pension as well. No vesting period for  politicians.  You work a day, you get a full pension.

&—this is why we can’t afford a ‘single payer’ health care system like other developed countries. What? European Union countries are bankrupt because of fee medical care?  No, European countries are bankrupt because their politicians also have bled the system—& in Greece, add to it that they don’t collect  property taxes from the  well heeled.

It’s great that we have a free press,. & that reporters have reported on this. Now what?  How do we go about changing this? Can we?  I mean, we can all try to emigrate to Norway & Sweden. but we object to how high they tax everyone, & the cost of living. Where can we go?

In her last book,  The Challenge for Africa, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai addressed the problem of lack of government transparency &  respect for rule of law, and what Mo Ibrahim is doing to entice  heads of state in Africa to leave peacefully, honorably, and with dignity.  The reason Dr. Ibrahim  set up the award is because Africans generally don’t get pensions, or speaking engagements, or  write books.  They have no way to support themselves in retirement, and the  award  is an incentive to not hold on to power. So far, it hasn’t been that successful, and  some years it is not awarded.  But that is not  cogent to  my point.

Our politicians have enormous chutzpah, as do the employees  of our governments.  They have no incentive to not bankrupt the system, as they are making more money than they know what to do with.  They can gamble it away, invest in risky schemes,  award lavish gifts to family & church.  it’s their money.

Michal Lewis, the writer, has addressed  what has happened in California: that  local governments are collapsing. Soon, Illinois will follow.  Our politicians do not care, and have no incentive to care.  It would take reporters reporting on their  ineptitude  and sleaze every day.  Meanwhile  our governments will be bankrupt before the system is fixed.

True story: family mishegas

February 15, 2012

My father has always been difficult.   I now realize he had Asperger’s Syndrome, but no matter.  he has alienated friends & family members, & what follows are  2examples of the reasons why.

I had called my sister  on the phone to  tell her I was doing my taxes, and I had gotten a 1099, forwarded to me by my father, for  dividends on a life insurance policy he had taken out for me, on me,   in 1972.  About 3 year ago, I called State Farm,the issuer, to find out what the policy was worth, and they told me it was $13,000 and some change.  Now, because I am looking to pay down my mortgage,  I called again, and they told me the cash value is $8200.  It has fallen in value.  How does that happen?  State Farm is not  transparent about its investments.  My father paid in to the policy until the  dividends paid the premiums, and that started so long ago, he really doesn’t remember what the premiums were. Worse, he claims he paid $7000  cash for the policy  in 1972.  If he had just put $25 a month into some bank account, even with no interest, the  account (with the $7000) would now be worth $19,000. Yet I am the bad one for not adding to the policy (a policy I probably signed, but did not have a copy of), and for wanting to cash it in—& for calling his insurance agent dishonest.

My sister has a better story of aggravation with my father.

Let no good deed go unpunished.  Remember, comedy is tragedy plus time….

As she told me:

My dad and step-mother are in Florida until end of March. They go for 3 months each year.   My step mother insists, and she may even  pay for the trip.
My dad owns a small chemical cleaning company. He sells soaps and cleaners to businesses.  He had me go to his house every other week to take his car out to drive it so it moves while he’s away. I take it to the post office. Go to his lock box and grab his business mail and deposit any checks he gets. All should take about 30 minutes of actual time. From start to finish about an hour from my house.   I do not have a key to the house. I just go into the garage.  The reason for this is….my step-mother does not want her stepchildren going into the house.  No other reason.    This is an important part of this story.
So yesterday was my day to do it. I also needed to go to the grocery store and few other errands. It’s almost 11am.
Now to add to the story, my parents have a neighbor who lives one door down. She has MS. She sold her house  and is waiting for her new apartment to be completed which it should be in an about a month.  She is staying in my father’s townhouse until her place is ready.
Two weeks ago my dad tells me I need to go to his house and go down stairs to his office to send him some business checks. Normally I never go inside the house when I visit. There is a key pad on the garage door so I usually just go in through the garage, take his car, close the garage door and do my thing. However, they have left the inside door to the house unlocked if I ever do need to get in and in this case, I needed to for my dad.
I go in, go downstairs to get the checks and call my dad. I’m on the phone with him and he tells me at that time that Seri, the lady with MS is going to be moving into the house. I then hear someone upstairs and it’s her daughter, Andi,  who is just beginning to bring things to the house. I finish with my dad and speak to this adult daughter, Andi. I introduce myself and let her know what I do regarding my visits. Advising her  I do not have a key to the actual house and normally I do not have to go inside. This was an unusual exception for me having to come inside to get these business checks. She tells me her mom would probably feel better if she could lock the garage door leading into the house and I told her that was fine and for any reason I need to get back inside, I would call Andi and we would arrange a time for me to come to the door for her mom to let me in, if I needed to get back downstairs to my dad’s office. Okay… following me so far?
Also the daughter, Andi,  asked me if I had a spare garage door clicker. I told her I only had the one in my dad’s car and gave it to her for her mom to have her mom’s car’s remote set up so that the clicker in her mom’s car would get set to the house code so her mom, with MS , didn’t have to get out of the car to open the garage door. This makes sense to me. Oh, if it had only been that simple.
I went to my dad’s last week and used the key pad on the outside of the garage door to open it and it did open with my code, but Seri, the lady staying at the house had not returned the garage door clicker to my dad’s car. Okay, a bit annoyed, I pulled Dad’s car out, got out of the car and manually closed the garage door on the key pad. I had also rung the door bell to the house since Seri’s car was in the garage, but I got no answer.
I did my thing, ran the post office and bank errands and returned the car to my dad’s. Again opening and closing the garage with the key pad that is attached to the outside of the garage door.
So, if you’re still with me, I begin my day yesterday. It was sunny and I knew the snow was coming so I decided to do a quick run to my Dad’s to take care of the mail.
I get  to the house and I see 2 days of newspapers on the driveway. I grab them and go to the front door and I see another newspaper. What the hell is going on? These are  Seri’s newspapers and here my parents are not home and now it shows everyone no one is picking up the newspapers. I ring the door bell and get no answer. My day is just beginning.
I go to the outside garage key pad, put in the code and nothing happens.  I try it again. No luck. Great!! I get back into my car, which is not parked in the driveway, but across the street in the visitors parking space. I call my Dad in Florida. He tells me Seri fell, broker her hip earlier in the week and is in the hospital. Great. I tell him I can’t get into the garage. Remember, I do not have a key to the house. He tells me to call the daughter, Andi. He has no idea why the garage door won’t go up. I hear my step-mother in the background asking why am I trying to get into the house. I have NO business going into the house!!! Remember:  she is very aware that Seri is NOT in the house at the moment, but yelling at my father that I am NOT to go into the house. He only briefly yells back at her that I need to get in since the keypad is not working. It’s at this point, I really should refer to her as the wicked queen. Hansel and Gretel have no idea how good they had it.
I call the daughter, Andi and she tells me when they found her mom, they just grabbed her and went to the hospital and she says she believes they left the key to the house in the house. I tell her I will call my step sister, Laurie, to see if she had a key to the house. I don’t have her phone number as she just moved, but is in the  same  town as my parents.
Andi also said if Laurie has a key, I have her permission to go into the house. I would not just walk in without her or her mom’s okay, as they were given the house by my Dad and  Iwould not presume to just walk in, as I had stated earlier when I first met her. I call my Dad.
Here where Ripley’s Believe it or Not begins. I call my Dad. He is standing right next to my step mother. She is on her phone talking to my step-sister, Laurie. I need Laurie’s phone number.  Dad is trying to look it up and can not find it. I tell him I can hear my step-mother in the background talking to Laurie, just ask her for it. My father yells at me he can NOT Interrupt them. WHY NOT??? He says he just can’t.  I tell him, if I can’t get to her, I can’t get to his car and in his car is the bank key to his PO box and the deposit slips to the bank. It’s his business and he needs to do something to get this resolved. He finds a phone number for Laurie, who you and I know is being spoken to by my step-mother right then on the phone. Laurie is at work and I need to leave her a phone message to call me TONIGHT to resolve this. Really?? He messes up the middle 3 digits of the phone number and I try calling a few versions of it. 2 don’t go through and one is a baby talking. Okay, I huff and call my dad again. Dad is getting pissed, my step-mother is still on the phone with Laurie and I’m sitting there thinking, let’s all say it together, WTF! I tell him about the baby voice and he says yes, it’s the right number:   Laurie’s youngest, who is now like 9 or 10 years old, I think, recorded that 9 or 10 years ago. OMG!! So I hang up and leave a message for Laurie to call me. Oh and my father reminded me to leave a nice message and not be mean to her. Really? Why would I be mean to my step-sister? I have no grudge with her. So I leave the message and I am about to pull out of my parking space to leave but I see a car NOW is in my parents drive way!
Are you still with me? I re-park my car, get out and it’s my step sister, Laurie still on the phone with my step-mother Biv.  Really. My step-mother could not tell my father that Laurie just happened to be around the corner from the house and was on her way there right now and for me to wait.  Really?
Okay, taking a breath. I walk over to Laurie who is out of the car and is trying the code. Again, no results. She hangs up with my step-mother and we talk. She thinks she has a key at her house, near by. We get in her van and drive over there. I tell her on the way there about not having a key and Andi saying if Laurie has one we have her ok to go into the house. Laurie then tells me “oh, that is not what my mom told me! She said you wanted to walk in, that is what your Dad told her”.   One: my step-mother never talked to me and TWO they both know I don’t have a key to their house because that is what my step-mother wanted. Crazy!!
We get to her house, she finds a key, we drive back and get in my dad’s  house. We open the garage door by the button inside the garage. We go to the outside key pad and we still can’t get it to work. Laurie walks back in the house to find a screw driver thinking the battery to the key pad is dead. She then calls Andi and begins a long conversation with her and I’m stuck there because Laurie is parked in the middle of the drive way and I can’t get my dad’s car out to run the errands. But wait… it gets better.
She finishes the call, unscrews the key pad,  and promptly looses the mini screw holding the bottom half of the keypad. Pad still on the wall, and thankfully,  the bottom with the battery pops off and can be re-snapped back on. Okay I say, I’ll get a new battery. We’re about to leave and Laurie says she has to use the bathroom. I’m in the garage again because I can’t leave until she does and she then comes out and asks if there is a toilet plunger in the garage!!! LMAO NOW, not then. Are you with me? I’m thinking, Really??
We go back into the house and I use the plunger on the toilet, she flushes and you guessed it, it overflows!!! Of course it does! She grabs towels (my stepmohther’s fancy guest towels. I ask her if she know if there is a paper cup I might be able to take some of the water out of the toilet so I can plunge it again and she goes and gets me a coffee mug!! OMG, I’m thinking, really?
Okay, it’s her mom’s house, not mine. I use the mug to get the water out. It’s a slow task. We flush and it over flows again. It’s not the first time today, I’m beginning to question if someone has it out to get me today. We clean it up again.  All now all is flushing fine. She takes the towels and begins the washing machine. She tells me I can when I get back, put the towels in the dryer. I again remind her I don’t have a key to the house. She says she will come back after work which she had left when her mom called. Okay. I empty the dish washer which was locked and put the mug in it per Laurie’s instructions. Let this be a warning to everyone to avoid coffee mugs at my step-mother’s house.
Okay, she locks up and then it occurs to me, does the garage door clicker that the woman finally re-placed back into my Dad’s car work? And the answer is – – NO!! Of course not.  Hmmm, the key pad doesn’t work and now his clicker doesn’t work. Great. Laurie and I decide, I will put my car in the garage and I’ll run get batteries, to the post office, bank and back. She locks the inside  door leading into the house and the front door and she’ll return later and will re-close the garage door from the inside and use her key to re-lock the door when she leaves. Okay …we have a plan.
Not so fast my friends. I go to Walmart and they don’t have the A23 or the V12 mini batteries. I go to Walgreens and they have the garage door clicker battery, A23. I purchase one. Go back into the car and before I open the new battery, it looks like maybe the clicker should have 2 batteries in it? Did Seri take one? I don’t know, but I walk back into Walgreens. Return the 1 battery and purchase the 2 pack battery pack. Back to the car and no, it does only need one. Okay we have an extra. I don’t care. I run to the post office, no checks to deposit. I go back to Dad’s. I click the garage door click with it’s new battery and guess what? It doesn’t close. Okay so it’s not the battery. It could be the door itself, but I’m thinking  Seri… when she took the clicker to the dealer somehow the code got changed. Not sure how that could possibly happen, but honestly, It’s 2pm and I really just don’t care anymore. I didn’t find a V12 battery, so I put it back inside the outside garage key pad. Click the bottom in place, as you recall Laurie accidentally lost the screw and I call Laurie to let her know Dad’s car is in the garage. I have taken the car key, the bank key, the deposit slips and I won’t be running the car anymore until he gets home at the end of March. I’m done. She said she’ll look to see if she finds a V12 battery.
I then leave the scene of the crime, realizing I must go grocery shoping and it’s 3pm before I get home.
I sigh in relief after my story is done, but the punch line doesn’t come to this story until later that night. My dad calls me and says, are you ready for it?….. He says, “Okay, I need to tell you where the hidden key to the house is.”  Honestly?? Really? OMG! Welcome to my life.

&  it’s stuff like this—-all the time…

Is Greece a Failed State? Transparency International! Hello!

November 10, 2011

A few years ago, I  visited Egypt.  Amazing  country.  Thousands of miles of absolutely nothing, punctuated by  areas of intense beuaty, and a  long  area along the Nile of human history.  Incredible.

One thing I noticed, as we drove along, was the  many unfinished buildings. In fact, one of the hotels we stayed in (in Luxor) had a totally unfinished floor.

I asked the guide about this, and he told me that you don’t have to pay property taxes until the building is finished. You can occupy the building, but you don’t have tyo pay taxes.

Ah, yes.  This is how it is in much of the developing world.  That’s the law.  & so their infrastructure crumbles.  You wonder, “How do they exist?’  Foreign Aid.   The Europeans, the  Americans. even the Chinese.  It’s a way to build relationships.a  But it’s also a way to keep the corrupt in power, and the irony is that this foreign  aid is supposed to benefit  the citizenry.  The stand off is, it benefits the politicians, & the  citizenry don’t have to be mature and pay  for what they need.

Granted, a lot of the citizenry won’t be home owners, they will be renters, and they could not afford an abrupt change —because  their landlords will pass on the increase to the renters.  Many will either  take in  ‘roommates’ & over populate the property, or become homeless.

I saw this in Malawi, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.    I saw it in India, where the homeless/landless canp out  in front of the gates of the wealthy.  We are seeing it in Greece.

I have a friend whose father is Greek, and she has spent  a lot of time in Greece.  She rolls her eyes when you ask about  why you can’t get someone evicted for nonpayement of rent (possession is 9/10ths of the law…& squatters pay off  the people  who would evict them).

Many Greeks go to other countries, make a lot of money, & return to Greece to retire, as the pensions are so favorable….for Greek nationals.

The fact is, the only difference between the Greeks & the Africans is, the Greeks are  mostly cuacasian.

So,  even though the rest of Europe, the EEU, knew that was how the Greeks operated,they welcomed them into their economic community. It made no sense, unless you  would be funding them with other peoples money & making a commission.

I remember when  Transparency International sent  representatives to the African Studies Association conference. The officials, formerly of the ‘World Bank‘   told us how they were going to work with  developing governments to  bring good governance and respect for ‘rule of law’, so they could borrow more money after they had squandered ( and because they were tricked, in many cases—-I refer you to Naomi Klein’s  excellent book,Shock Doctrine:  the Rise of Disaster Capitalism) what they had already gotten.

I recently read a review Adam Gopnick, the New Yorker writer, wrote on The Wealth of Nations.  He highlighted  the notion that it benefitted buyers and sellers to act with integrity.  it was part of the deal…yet the people in charge of doling out money for investment seem to be…unclear on the concept.

Before I went to Egypt, I traveled in Malaysia.  Malaysia is an amazing country.  Very high rate of literacy,   excellent health care system (hey. compared to the USA…) modern infrastructure.  It seems that these people have a different view of transparency and capitalism than the Europeans & Americans.  This country is what America would be like if we hadn’t invested in wars instead of ourselves.

In the next few weeks, a super committee will present to the Congress of the United States  a way to close our bazillion dollar deficit. They are going to raise the eligibility age for  social securlty and medicare, and most likely eliminate the tax deduction for home mortgage ingerest and  real estate taxes.  They will NOT—you wait & see—lower their own salaries or pensions, nor will they  eliminate foreign aid or cut military spending.  We will still have a department of education that  realy  doesn’t do too much to improve the quality of lives in America.  In fact, we will still have all the government departments that repackage our tax dollars & send it out.   Very high income people—the 1%—will not be asked to pay more for anything.

& we will still have people like Cain, Bachman, & Perry having a degree of  credibility becaus they are not Obama, and because most Americans are  exhuaseted, frightened, and innumerate.  I don’t know hwat the solution is.  You can’t  undo  what all those who didn’t have integrity  did to create this mess.