J is for Jubilee

People of Christian faith often ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

“Proclaim liberty throughout the lands and to all the inhabitants thereof, it shall be a jubilee for you.” – Leviticus 25:10. In the Judaic tradition, during the Jubilee year, debts were forgiven and land that had been sold to repay debts was returned to the original owners. “What was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee, it shall be released, and the property shall be returned.” – Leviticus 25:28. In both Judeo-Christian and non-Biblical traditions, there has been an understanding that forgiveness of debt, when that debt becomes so onerous that one cannot ever get from under it, is both fair and practical.

Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, asks, “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” As Jubilee USA Network notes: “In the world’s most impoverished nations, the majority of the populations do not have access to clean water, adequate housing, or basic health care. These countries are paying debt service to wealthy nations and institutions at the expense of providing these basic services to their citizens. The United Nations Development Program estimated in 2003 that 30,000 children die each day due to preventable diseases. Debt service payments take resources that impoverished countries could use to cure preventable diseases. Debt cancellation frees up resources to reverse this devastating reality.” And, in many cases, the debt has already been paid, or would have, had the interest rates been reasonable.

The primary argument against debt jubilee is the notion of moral hazard; i.e., “situation where the behavior of one party may change to the detriment of another after the transaction has taken place.” People who enter into contracts should fulfill contracts, lest others be tempted to renege as well. Too often though, the original loan was consummated without the borrower having all the information. Or that the borrower is a nation that generated debt under a previous regime. This writer submits that when debt is essentially fraudulent, then debt forgiveness is both the logical and the only remedy.

People of the Christian faith often ask God to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” To me, that suggests that the way to show God’s love involves showing much more compassion than many financial institutions have shown to their customers. The United Church of Christ, for one, “has joined with other faith communities and organizations to call on governments to cancel the debts of poor countries and restore just economic relations between nations.”

Many US householders understand this concept on a micro-level. They buy a house, lose their job, and, instead of the banks agreeing to negotiate interest rates with the borrowers, the lenders choose to foreclose. And this mass seizure of homes has forced cities such as Cleveland, Ohio to raze some of its housing stock, since banks, by their nature, are ill-equipped to actually protect and take care of the buildings in their ownership. How much more reasonable and mutually beneficial it would have been if money lenders had been able to agree on a lower interest rate with homeowners,as some of the largest banks have finally been forced to do.

The business magazine Forbes asked last year if a debt jubilee might help kick start the American economy. As any good accountant will tell you, debt or credit which cannot be paid back is never an asset; it is always a liability.

ABC Wednesday – Round 10

V-A-C-A-TION in the summertime

The last two-week vacation, BTW, was in 1998.

Vacation is one of those vaguely foreign concepts to me. It doesn’t feel light, like that Connie Francis song [listen]. And the idea of taking two weeks off from work somehow became anathema to me, not because I don’t necessarily enjoy the time off, but because I generally end up spending close to a week before the event trying to get ahead at work, and at least a week afterward catching up anyway. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t had one in 13 years, until last month.

So the next couple weeks, or more, I’ll be writing about My Summer Vacation that took place the first couple weeks of August 2011. Frankly, much of it was SO busy that it was difficult to process until after the fact. The first week and a half were jam-packed, possibly more than what was ideal. I won’t be writing about it EVERY day, because that would be too grueling for ME (and probably you).

The last two-week vacation, BTW, was in 1998. I took a week to go to Detroit and Cleveland. In Detroit, I went to where they made the Motown music, a couple of Henry Ford museums, and a baseball game at the now-defunct Tiger Stadium. In Cleveland, I wanted to go to a baseball game, but one couldn’t get a ticket to Jacobs Field; one can now easily acquire tickets to what is now called Progressive Field, the name of which, like most naming-rights stadia, I can never remember. The highlight, though, was going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; I remember that there were tributes to two Carls who had died recently: Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys (d. February 6, pictured) and Carl Perkins (d. January 19), forever linked in my mind.

The second week was supposed to be a time that I’d catch up on my reading, maybe see a couple of movies. But because my trip to the Midwest conflicted with a trip I had earned to go to Boston to try out for the game show JEOPARDY!, I ended up going to Washington, DC on vacation week #2. In addition to the tryouts, I spent an inordinate amount of time wandering through the halls of Congress; I seriously doubt I could, in a post-9/11 America, have spent so much time in places, many of which far more restricted. Also hung out at the Botanical Gardens, the then-new FDR Memorial (pictured), and a brief time at Arlington National Cemetery.

The good news, of course, is that I got on JEOPARDY! The downside is that I really could have used the downtime just to veg out. I don’t veg out nearly often enough.

Summertime Blues

I seriously thought Paul Giamatti was going to be nominated for an Oscar for American Splendor.

It’s very warm on the second floor of my house. It was hot for several days last week, then it cooled off somewhat, only to have the heat return. The only place it isn’t hot is in the daughter’s room; she has a room air conditioner. The bedrooms have ceiling fans, which circulate but do not cool, the warm air.

The attic is comparable to doing the Bataan death march, after about 10 a.m.

The very good news, so far, is that we have not seen a bat in the living quarters. They seem to usually come in on the second or third day of a run of hot weather. Given the fact that we’ve had bats in 2002-2007 and 2009, I’m guessing that the insulation of the attic had an added effect.

Mowed the lawn Friday night with the reel mower, because weeds that look like miniature pine trees – what ARE those, anyway? – grow faster than the grass. BIG mistake. Even at 7:30 p.m., it was extremely humid. I did not have to worry too much about getting sunburn, but it was still so muggy, I needed to take a shower afterward.

A relative sent me one of those forwarded Very Important!!!! notices:
My car book says to roll down the windows to let out all the hot air before turning on A/C. WHY ???????????
Please do NOT turn on A/C as soon as you enter the car.
Open the windows after you enter your car and then turn ON the AC after a couple of minutes.
It goes on to talk about cancer-causing benzene, in great detail. The Snopes report does not entirely negate the e-mail, though it does challenge some of the specific cause-and-effect mentioned in the e-mail. We’ve been rolling down our windows for years before turning on the a/c, mostly to try to dissipate that OMG hot air.

Speaking of air conditioners, Parade magazine’s Ask Marilyn says running the ceiling fans 24 hours a day will NOT help the air conditioning so that the electric bills will not go down.

I was watching the Yankees’ tribute to Bob Sheppard and George Steinbrenner Friday night and was moved. Sheppard, the voice of the Yankees, who Reggie Jackson dubbed “The voice of God” has been so distinctive in the period he announced for the Yankees (1951-2007), plus the New York Giants for a couple of decades, that Yankee captain Derek Jeter had requested Sheppard’s voice be used to introduce him when he comes to bat. Lots of nice articles on ESPN, including this one. The Friday night game had no announcer in his honor.

George Steinbrenner, the man who purchased the Yankees in 1973, in the midst of a fallow period for the team – hadn’t won the World Series since 1962, hadn’t even gotten to the Series since 1964 – was a polarizing character who, I thought, contributed to the zooiness of the Bronx Zoo. Without looking it up, I recall him hiring and firing Billy Martin five different times, and firing Bob Lemon, not for the first time after his team had won 103 regular-season games. He was suspended by baseball twice. I was no fan of George’s, yet felt badly at the passing of such a distinctive character. The Yankees’ 5-4 comeback win over Tampa Bay Friday night seemed somehow appropriate.

Harvey Pekar’s death at the age of 70 did make me sad. The comic book writer who wrote a lot about Harvey Pekar could be self-involved and acerbic, but from the first time I read his material back in the 1980s, I related to his honesty and his struggle to try to figure it all out. I loved the movie American Splendor, and I seriously thought Paul Giamatti – son of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, BTW – was going to be nominated for an Oscar for playing Harvey. I did NOT enjoy seeing Harvey the one time I saw him on Letterman; seems that Dave treated him like a caricature for its entertainment value. Here’s an appreciation from the LA Times.

The only Jay Leno joke I’ve ever remembered: “It’s so hot [how hot is it?] that even in Cleveland, they can feel the Miami Heat.” I watched The Decision (11.2 million viewers, more than some NBC shows, and came to pretty much agree with what Jaquandor said on the LeBron James issue, though I’d argue that the Cavaliers weren’t going to win an NBA championship any time soon, even if James had stayed. The problem with The Decision – an issue even my wife, who cares nothing about basketball or most sports, tired of the spectacle – is that LJ apparently grossly misunderstood his own press clippings. The only way he could have gotten away with that staged event is if he had stayed in Cleveland.

Wow, this blogpost has a Cleveland feel: LeBron, Pekar, city native Steinbrenner. Makes me want to listen to music from The Band.

Finally, Summer Breeze by the Isley Brothers, a cover of the Seals & Crofts hit.

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