Bloggfćrslur mánađarins, febrúar 2009


Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. - H L Mencken

How Embarrassing

OK. Now I'm just plain embarrassed.   At first I was angry, then confused and now just embarassed.  I cannot comprehend the influence the anti-whaling people of the US hold over their government.  It baffles me that the State Department can issue a statement  regarding Iceland's quota of 150 fin whale and 100 minke whales saying- 

" stocks of fin and minke whales are not adequate to support this harvest"

It would be easy to dispute this claim.  Too easy actually.  I could use the IWC own numbers of fin and minke whales in and around Icelandic waters.  I could also use Norway's greater kill numbers for many years to show the stocks are adequate.  But it all would be in vain.  Because as I have said before in a previous entry it just doesn't matter. The anti-whaling members of the IWC will never, ever let commercial whaling resume again.  

It kind of makes one wonder why there is an IWC in the first place.  And this may be why the US State department has issued this statement.  The IWC is becoming ever more fractured and its whaling members ever more impatient.  They see the IWC as an ever weakening entity with no real power and also no real scientific justification to continue to stop nations from whaling.  The State Dept. even makes reference to this reality in their statement-

"We also believe this action will undermine the ongoing “future of the International Whaling Commission” efforts"

Iceland should withdraw from the IWC and form a new orginization with the other nations that whale or wish to whale.  This way the organization and its scientific information could be used for its real purpose - the responsible management of a renewable ocean resource instead of a front to please emotionally and irrationally driven anti-whaling protesters.

So as an American living in Iceland I would like like to apologize for the stupidity of those fellow Americans involved in crafting the letter of opposition.  In the Icelandic tradition I would like to say this was done not in my name. And in the universal tradition I would like to say a few words to the IWC and all their anti-whaling supporters, but that was really done best by Jónas Jónasson-

I couldn't have said it better myself.

GTB Bandaríkin fordćma hvalveiđar
Tilkynna um óviđeigandi tengingu viđ frétt

No Better Time than the Present

Dear Árni,

If you were waiting for the right time to resign immediately and apologize for your contribution to the Icelandic crisis then that time would be now.

GTB Hryđjuverkalög vegna samtals Árna viđ Darling
Tilkynna um óviđeigandi tengingu viđ frétt

To Be Continued......

I believe a moment of silence may necessary.  The new law regarding the Central Bank has been signed by the President and with it marks the final chapter in the long rise and sudden fall of Daviđ Oddsson and Sjáfstćđisflokkurinn. (Independence Party) I don't mean to get emotional , but when you start to read blog entries that talk of the "Final Act" or compare Daviđ's removal to the Crucifixion of Christ, (yes you read that right, I can't possible make up shit like that on my own) you can't help but feel a bit of sadness for he members of Daviđ's party.  They are upset, angry, and bitter that their great leader has been removed from the job he gave to himself.  Oh, the injustice of it all. 

The supporters of Daviđ and Sjáfstćđisflokkurinn have many reasons for having these feeling too.  Their party have been thrown out of the government, pushed into the opposition where their voice is now like a wimper from a castrated puppy. They have taken the brunt of the blame for starting the economic crisis and also have been blamed for not doing enough to fix the crisis. They have been forced to call early elections. The chairman of the party, Geir, the former prime minister,  has cancer and will not seek re-election, the vice-chair, Ţorgerđur K, wasted 5 million kroner of taxpayers money flying herself and her husband to the Olympics-twice, the peson who may win the first seat in the primary in the southern district served a two year prson term for embezzling from the government when he was a former member of parliament (can't make shit like that up either) and now their leader, king, god if you will, has been removed from his post as Head of the Central Bank. Basically it is turning out to be a pretty crappy year for them.

But there may still be some hope for the party.  They still hold 25-30% of the potential vote for the next election.  It is hard to believe but political parties in Iceland are alot like football teams, and in some instances it might better just to call their members diehard fans.  That percent is likely enough to make them the largest party and with a little help from flip-flop framsókn they could be in power again. It is not like they have killer competition either. There are plenty of issues that  Sjálfstćđisflokkurinn could seize apon to swing things their way. All that is needed is for someone, anyone, to step forward and LEAD. There is also the possibility the Daviđ will reclaim the throne and maybe invigorate the base of the party.  He may be hated by some but he is an A class politician, a savvy debater, a skilled orator and a master manipulator. If any one can make a successful comeback it is this man.  And I hope he does.  It might keep things interesting.  I understand now what Rush Limbaugh meant when he said he was going to miss Bill Clinton.

So there it is finally, the end of this chapter of The Icelandic Economic Crisis. But probably not the end of Sjáfstćđisflokkurinn and definitely not the end of Daviđ Oddsson.

GTB Búinn ađ stađfesta lögin
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Customer Relations and the "News" Propaganda Game

Rule Number 1- The customer is always right. 

Rule Number 2 - If the customer is wrong, see rule number 1

 These are the rules that most supermarkets live by.  I know because I worked in that industry for 14 years.  I say most supermarkets because Icelandic ones have never heard of these rules. If they ever had to face real competition from a US supermarket they wouldn't last a week.  But that is a subject for another time.  Anyway, supermarkets (outside of Iceland)  have some serious competition and very fickle customers so pleasing the customers they have is a very big deal.  And if some of those customers tell them they do not approve of something then the supermarket usually does something about it to keep those customers happy. This is the job for the Customer Relations Department. (non-existent in Iceland)  What they need to do is satisfy these customers in a balanced and of course, economical, way.  This is not alway easy.  Case in point.

During the first Gulf War there was a large demand for yellow ribbon.  Tie a yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree to support the troops.  The management of my company was fearful our customers would think we were making a profit from the war so they removed all yellow ribbon from the shelves.  Good solution, right? Wrong!  Some customers complained that our stores were unpatriotic for not having yellow ribbon on the shelves. So a solution had to be found so that it would look like we were not making a profit but being patriotic.  The Customer Relations Department came up with a brilliant solution.  Give away long strips of yellow ribbon to each customer for free.  It didn't cost very much and people really appreciated it.  Problem solved.

Now you are probably wondering what all that has to do with the UK supermarket Waitrose protesting Iceland's whaling quota increase.   Waitrose is fearful of losing customers because some have complained about them selling fish from Iceland, the terrible whaling country.  So they need to find a solution to the problem, balanced and as economically painless as possible.  After all where else are they going to buy their fish,  from Norway?  With the Pound hitting new lows ever day, Waitrose is getting a bargain buying from Iceland. Enter the Customer Relations Department. They organized a little field trip, otherwise known as a publicity stunt.  They sent their executives to Iceland to talk to the Minister of Fisheries and to ensure that local suppliers do not have links to whaling. And guess what they found out? It is best to hear it from them-

"I can categorically confirm that none of our Icelandic suppliers have links, directly or indirectly, with the whaling industry," said Jeremy Langley, specialist fish buyer at Waitrose.

What a surprise.  So they complained to the minister and ensured the fish has never touched a dead whale.  But how do they let their customers know about their good deeds and allow themselves to keep buying cheap fish?  Just get it printed in the paper as a "news" article.  I'll  bet a thousand kronur (not so much anymore) that they contacted the Guardian and not the other way around.  Free publicity.  It doesn't get any better than that.

This is what this story is really all about.  It is and never was a threat to stop buying fish from Iceland.  It was about a way to keep buying fish from Iceland and cover their asses. They call it Customer Relations but it is just the "news" propaganda game. Engin störf tapast í fiskvinnslu vegna hvalveiđa
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That's the beauty of argument, if you argue correctly, you're never wrong. - Nick Naylor (played by Aaron Eckhart) in the movie  "Thank You for Smoking"

Never ASSUME. You make an ASS out of U and ME.

Jón Gunnar commented:

I see that you are not dead, still whining and complaining. No, we don't know each other.

And yes, I have also heard all your arguments before by people that used to hang around the Kárahnjúkar Dam all summer long and "protest" (to be read drink beer and have sex with strangers in tents) and hang around at Sirkus Pub and play chess when they were in town and curse Davíđ Oddson like the plague.  I hate to break it to you but your blog entry about this interview is not inventing the wheel all over again, it has been heard before and it still sounds as pointless as you claim the interview with Davíđ was.  My bet is though that around 70% of the nations population was watching and listening to what he was saying and to see the dramatic change in peoples commennts on news of the interview in Davíđ's favour is quite refreshing and hopefully a sign that the brainwashing of the Baugur Group with all it's media companies could be washing off.
Hopefully you will take a bath too.

Wow, I didn't realize the protesters in Kárahnjúkar were pro-industry, pro-whaling people who could make such good arguments. I never could understand being a tree hugger in a country with no trees.  Drinking beer and having sex with strangers in tents? Are you not referring to Verslunamannahelgi?  I can't see how you can read into my article that i think Daviđ is the plague.  I have given very good, objective reasons as to why he should not be the head of the central bank. The main reasons have mostly to do with what he did AFTER the bank collapse. Here they are once again: 

1. He is a politician.  I have already explained why having a politician as the head of a central bank is a bad idea.  If you read the technical suggestions from the IMF you would see that almost all countries have a  specific ban on a politician being the head of a central bank.

2. He is not qualified to do the job.  Central banks don't lend themselves well to on the job training.

3. Taking a 75% share in Glitnir(later anulled by the nationalization of the bank), essentually making private debt sovereign debt.

4. The pegging of the kronur ( My personal favorite).  It will go down in the economic books as the shortest in history (one day) and probably the dumbest. This, by the way, helps the "not qualified " argument.

5. For implying on national television (Kastljós) that Iceland would not cover the debts of the banks.  This one alone is grounds for dismissal in any normal circumstance.  You can watch this in the video below.

If you could lose the "my football team is better than your football team" mentality for just a few minutes and try to come up with a rational reason why he should remain the Head of the Central Bank I am willing to here it.  Anyway you will be hard pressed to find an economist who agrees with you because most have listed these exact reasons for why he should go.

As far as the 70% of the nation watching, I hope you are not implying that 70% of the nation now supports Daviđ.  That would require math usually reserved for the old banks or only counting the blog pages with a blue background.

And why, why, why does criticism of Daviđ automatically mean that  I am a dam hating, beer drinking, sex with strangers, chess playing friend of Baugur or Jón Ásgeir? (OK , I do drink beer.)This is just a demonization tactic used by people who can't make their argument using the truth.  I can assure you I have no love for the man or the company. After all Jón Ásgeir brought down FLGroup and that was in the good times! For the record, and purely politically speaking, I think Daviđ was a great politician.  One does not hold power for so long by muddling through it.  He just should not be the Head of the Central Bank.  Period. 

For those diehards that still think Daviđ was preaching the Gospel on Kastljós here is a video:


Swan Song

I did my best to sit through the Kastljós interveiw with Daviđ Oddsson but I really didn't see the point.  I had heard all of  the arguments before.  He says he warned of the impending crisis. That the banks had zero chance of surviving.  After watching Geir Haarde in the Hardtalk interview - you know, the "I quess I should have", interview, I have no doubt that Daviđ told something to this effect to Geir.  When asked by the interviewer if Daviđ had said something like this to Geir, instead of flat out saying "No", Geir replies that he won't discuss the private conversations he had with Daviđ. Translation......YES HE DID. And so what.  If the head of the central bank couldn't see the problems Iceland was heading to all he had to do was read some international papers written on the subject long before it happened.  So all this proves is that the man can read, not that he was Noah warning of a flood.

Ok, so the banks are the ones that caused the crisis. I got it. You warned the government (controlled by your own former political party, nice way to let them take the fall) that the banks would fail.  Got it.  Again, so what. Daviđ is missing the point.  The point is about trust in the Central Bank and I have already listed several objective reasons why he should be removed. (See the blog entry)  not because of the crisis but because of former political affiliations, education, and work performance.  If he thinks his work performance was so great he must have stopped reading the international news after the crisis hit.  Many well respected economists are completely shocked he still has his job.  Daviđ states that as a sign of trust the foreign banks allowed money for Icelandic businesses to go through the Central Bank.  When it is the last bank standing did they really have any choice?

This interview was just Daviđ's swan song.  He was composed and calm and I think he even got sentimental when he called the Central Bank "bankinn minn"(my bank).  How nice.  Hopefully this is his last week in the job and hopefully his last interview on the subject.  It should have been put to rest with Daviđ doing he honorable thing and stepping down.  Instead he has chosen fall down.

GTB Davíđ í Kastljósviđtali
Tilkynna um óviđeigandi tengingu viđ frétt

The Icelandic Language is a Terrible Thing To Waste (Especially in Iceland)

I have been reading several articles about Jonas Moody, the man who worked in Iceland for six years, got laid off, and found out he could not collect unemployment.  Of all the articles I have read, the most surprising is the one he wrote himself-(      in which he states-

"I can decline nouns with the best of them (kýr-kú-kú-kýr… ćr-á-á-ćr), I make a mean plokkfiskur (fish casserole), and I’m slated to exchange rings with my favorite Icelander pretty soon."

I have spent much time reading bank contracts, labor contracts and other important documents because, for some crazy reason, I thought I would be helpful to know my legal obligations, my rights and things I may be, or not be, entitled to.  Sometimes it can take a long time thumbing through the Icelandic/English dictionary or nagging my wife or friends to explain it all to me (in my mother tongue of course) but I do try.  To be honest I still don't know everything I should about the Icelandic system and that is mainly do to the fact that I don't still (maybe never?) have a perfect understanding of Icelandic. Spoken Icelandic, not too bad, written, forget it. But I can guarantee you in these times, I know if I can be laid off and collect unemployment. (I can, and I am not an Icelandic citizen.)

Here we have someone, a fellow countryman, who can speak and presumably write Icelandic like, well, an Icelander. A stunning achievemnet in you compare that with the mangled prose of Paul Nikolov in the Althingi. (maybe he is better now, but I don't really care).  So Jonas has lived here, worked here, watched the news here, hopefully knows that the US in not part of the European Economic Area, and thinks he is entitled to unempoyment benefits because he paid taxes. That argument doesn't work for foreigners working in the US so how does he think it would work here.  He should have made better use of those Icelandic language courses and checked it out before, instead of complaining about it now.

GTB „Fangaskipti" í kreppunni
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Stealing the Limelight

Framsóknarflokkurinn has done it once again.  The first time was by giving conditional support to the new government, carefully steering closer to their agenda. They let everybody know right then who is in really in charge with the threat of a no confidence vote.  They have even used the threat, single handedly saving whaling in Iceland.  And now we have Höskuldur, probably a little bitter over the "hey you won/oops sorry , you lost" fiasco at the party elections, stealing the moment away from VG and Samfylkingin ( and in a small way, his own party) and twisting it into a "look how cautious, lets do it right" moment , mostly for him, but also(in a small way) for Framsóknarflokkurinn.  It does put the party in a slightly dangerous position,  exposing a small fracture within, leaving Birkir Jón with some work to do in the primary. But the Seđlabanki bill will get passed this week, and until it does, Framsóknarflokkurinn is in the news because of it; giving them the spotlight to show their economic rescue plan.  The revelation her is that VG and Samfylkingin are powerless without Framsóknflokkurinn,  But Framsóknarflokkurinn has to be careful not to ruin the opportunity they gave themselves. A tight rope to walk, but so far, so good.

GTB Lausn ekki fundin
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