See previous Escaping Isolation posts.
As anyone who has read the papers or seen the news in the last few years knows, banks around the world have broken numerous serious laws, have had to be bailed out with taxpayers money, and yet still pay millions of dollars to inept executives and billions more to stockholders. Many of their problems involve their connection to complex financial transactions that do nothing but make money for already-rich individuals. There has to be a better way, and there is. The economic melydown created by the covid-19 crisis seems a perfect time to reorganize the sector.
I would oblige all banks to become credit unions and I would strictly limit their functionality.
Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions cooperatively owned by their members. They operate solely for the benefit of their members rather than for outside shareholders, of whom there would be none. Their senior management is elected by the members and their policies are offered up for approval at regular meetings of the membership. Senior management remuneration would require members’ approval. The billions of dollars that are currently paid out in dividends to outsiders would be used to increase services and lower costs for the members. Any surplus could be re-paid to the members or added to the credit union’s capital.
I would limit their functionality to the taking, managing and disbursement of members’ deposits, and to the issuance of personal loans (including credit cards) and personal mortgages. Any member or corporation that required business loans, corporate mortgages, investments or insurance would turn to investment companies, mortgage brokers and insurance companies designed specifically for that function.
No one would be limited in their desire to engage in stock market or other investments. But these would be handled entirely by companies separate from banks. No longer would bank depositors’ cash be at risk in the marketplace for derivatives, for example.
Competition between credit unions, if such were needed, would become a function of service and accessibility. I believe this would get us more branches on the streets and a more personalized service between member and bank. It would bring banking back to the people, to a smaller scale that we can understand and control — after all, it is our money they are using.
To celebrate the birthday on this day in 1853 of Vincent Van Gogh.
The enforced requirement to stay home does allow us the ability to do things we might not otherwise find time to enjoy — such as learning the history of ketchup and mustard. Sit back and relax for 15 minutes ….
The tension seemed to fuse
his spine to his neck
and he found he couldn’t move,
bracing himself for the words he knew
from the smudge-faced fireman.
His brain felt hollow,
as if all the matter had been extracted
to make space
for the cascade of new information,
fragmentary and wounding as it would be
that he anticipated momentarily.
“Your wife, sir.”
Even as he answered, he recoiled with imminent horror;
and even as he recoiled
he hoped – inanely – that his reaction
would not form part of his
“Your wife, sir,
said to tell you,
she’s at her mothers.”
He wondered if he’d ever move
his neck again.
Pleasure is a freedom song,
But it is not freedom.
It is the blossoming of your desires,
But it is not their fruit.
It is a depth calling unto a height,
But it is not the deep nor the high.
It is the caged taking wing,
But it is not space encompassed.
Ay, in very truth, pleasure is a freedom-song.
And I fain would have you sing it with fullness of heart; yet I would not have you lose your hearts in the singing.
Some of your youth seek pleasure as if it were all, and they are judged and rebuked.
I would not judge nor rebuke them. I would have them seek.
For they shall find pleasure, but not her alone:
Seven are her sisters, and the least of them is more beautiful than pleasure.
Have you not heard of the man who was digging in the earth for roots and found a treasure?
And some of your elders remember pleasures with regret like wrongs committed in drunkenness.
But regret is the beclouding of the mind and not its chastisement.
They should remember their pleasures with gratitude, as they would the harvest of a summer.
Yet if it comforts them to regret, let them be comforted.
And there are among you those who are neither young to seek nor old to remember;
And in their fear of seeking and remembering they shun all pleasures, lest they neglect the spirit or offend against it.
But even in their foregoing is their pleasure.
And thus they too find a treasure though they dig for roots with quivering hands.
But tell me, who is he that can offend the spirit?
Shall the nightingale offend the stillness of the night, or the firefly the stars?
And shall your flame or your smoke burden the wind?
Think you the spirit is a still pool which you can trouble with a staff?
Oftentimes in denying yourself pleasure you do but store the desire in the recesses of your being.
Who knows but that which seems omitted today, waits for tomorrow?
Even your body knows its heritage and its rightful need and will not be deceived.
And your body is the harp of your soul,
And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.
And now you ask in your heart, “How shall we distinguish that which is good in pleasure from that which is not good?”
Go to your fields and your gardens, and you shall learn that it is the pleasure of the bee to gather honey of the flower,
But it is also the pleasure of the flower to yield its honey to the bee.
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life,
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love,
And to both, bee and flower, the giving and the receiving of pleasure is a need and an ecstasy.
Be in your pleasures like the flowers and the bees.
Tonight I made Vietnamese Caramel Chicken.
Usually, of course, I take a photograph of whatever food I want to celebrate. However, I forgot in the rush to eat this beauty. But it was so good that I didn’t want to wait to share. So here is a photo from Marion Grasby’s blog:
Put this on full screen and just watch the creation process. Fascinating stuff.
Remember those good old days of 2008 when this was what we worried about?
For a slice of nostalgia see the full Imperial Commander series.
If you just need to stare at a screen and bliss out for a bit, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has some live web cams on YouTube of jellyfish, penguins, sharks, and birds. This is my current favourite:
These guys know nothing about physical distancing: they bump into, across, and though each other. I am amazed their plumages don’t get tangled up.
15,560 days ago, Elvis Presley had been dead four days and Groucho Marx for one; Jimmy Carter was into the eighth month of his presidency and serial killer Son of Sam had just been captured. On that day, August 20 1977, Voyager 2 was launched into space.
This morning, 15,560 days later, she is about 17 hours 8 light-minutes away from earth, still heading out. She left the Solar System 508 days ago, heading into the Interstellar Medium, and is still sending us valuable data every day.
Voyager 2 was built in 1976-1977 with tools that we would consider archaic today, and yet these days we have trouble keeping a toaster alive for more than six months!
It has been a glorious and useful and enhancing project and I hope it has many more thousands of days to chat with us.