We Must Accept the New Reality – a Personal Perspective

Personal perspectives shared by Ken Cynar – Executive VP, Editor-in-Chief – G&A Institute

The initial pandemic panic seems to have subsided, those that needed to hoard have apparently reached their limits and now is the time for calm.

We must be ready for the long haul….the very long haul!

There are some people who have been focused on immediate gratification so often that [gratification] becomes the only solution; for those people and all the rest of us — I think that this period in our lives should be teaching us patience.  Patience and forbearance.

Social isolation will test our relationships, reach into our inner being and unfortunately in some cases release inner anger and frustration.

This is not the time to point the fingers, get angry at whomever or scream to the heavens that the gods are at fault.

“The fault… is not in the stars… but in ourselves.” There is plenty of blame to go around for the situation we find ourselves in today.  

The time is at hand for us to accept that it will be months, not weeks before there will be return to some normalcy.

Meantime, children will be home schooled; those of us that can, will work from home, all of us will become somewhat disconnected from friends and family, money problems will challenge many, and our focus will be on basics…food, water, health and safety, shelter.

Hopefully many will take the opportunity to look inward and readjust and improve the things they should value. New sneakers or clothes and that new car will become less and less important. A new set of real values can replace the old.  That will change many aspects of 21st Century living.

And those changes will require us to adjust to the new normal of the day.

Accept it or not, I believe that we are now returning to the values of a simpler time…like it or not, depending on your point-of-view.

You can embrace change, work with it and yourself or continue to howl at the moon in anger and frustration…which believe me is pointless.

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back to living. Get on the phone to your friends and neighbors…help them adjust…offer your counsel…your comfort…seek the humanity in all…and live your life according to the new rules.

Get on Facebook or other social media with good news, humor, stories… not ranting at the whomever or whatever. Connect and stay connected.

We can get through this by helping each other. See who might need a call on your block…maybe you can pick up some needed food for them the next time you go to the store.

If you don’t have it in your heart to reach out now…then when?

Acts of kindness are for now!

In this all please don’t lose your faith…it is a time for prayer. For God is there, always listening.

That’s the way I see it. Comments to share?

No! The Yellowstone Volcano is not about to erupt & look at my new selfie!

By Ken Cynar, Exec VP, Governance and Accountability Institute

Social media is fun, entertaining, but not always accurate, responsible or helpful. As a communications tool, distributor of information, and platform for free speech, it is simultaneously a boom and a curse on society. Here is the latest.

Several days ago Yellowstone National Park experienced several tremors and a 4.8 earthquake. Not all that unusual for that part of the country. Preceding the earthquake Leo Leckie, a sales associate of the nonprofit Yellowstone Assn., an educational partner of Yellowstone National Park, filmed an impressive video of a herd of Buffalo scampering through the snow at Yellowstone…apparently for the fun of it. (Animals fleeing Yellowstone spark fears of volcanic eruption, RTUS
But what happen next is laughable, except it highlights the flaws of the social media communications system. (Yellowstone bison-on-run video wrongly triggers volcanic eruption fear, LA Times) What Leckie terms “eruptionists and conspiracists” pirated the video and suggested that the buffalo were running because of the earthquakes and perhaps the big one was on the way. The story was picked up by media outlets and the danger of an imminent major eruption took off. They termed the eruption as being one that could end all of mankind on earth.

Here is the chain: Video of buffalo running into Yellowstone; eruptions take place a few weeks later; “Eruptionists and conspiracists” pirate to indicate that the buffalo were running away from the earthquake; the video goes from 20 hits to over 90,000; major media does stories on the threat to the country and the world…and of course I rant about it.

The power of social media as a force for good should not be belittled, but its flaws include faceless nameless people, creating, twisting and manufacturing news. It creates false fears, damages reputation, embarrasses people and nations, deflates egos and in the “wrong” hands it can be a propaganda tool to feed our prejudices and endanger our freedoms.

Regulate it…certainly not! But view it with a critical eye, absolutely. As we try to build a sustainable society, protect our resources, our people and our future, we need a foundation of truth and accuracy. Social media can be a key tool, but also a chink in our armor.

Now, did I show you the new pictures on Facebook I posted of my grand kids?

That’s the way I see it!

The Fed’s Janet Yellen, right person for the right time by Ken Cynar, executive vp, Governance & Accountability Institute

by Ken Cynar – Exec VP – G&A Institute

San Francisco Fed Bank President Janet Yellen, called “an unwavering advocate of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive steps to boost the U.S. economy,” is the right person for the right time to head the Federal Reserve System. Politics aside, she is highly qualified, focused and skilled in the fundamental role of the Federal Reserve and how it has evolved during the tenure of outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke.
“If you were dreaming up a training school for Fed chairmen, it would be her life story,” stated Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, a former Fed Vice Chairman. Experience, experience and more experience jumps off her resume having spent more than a decade at the Fed.
Michael Hirsh of the National Journal described her as “…a nonideologue who will relentlessly follow the facts, whether they lead her toward solutions on the left or the right.”
Isn’t that what we are looking for in a Fed Chairperson? These are the kind of nominations that Americans seek. On paper she looks great; she has the experience, and has demonstrated the temperament. Does that mean I or the American people will always agree with her decisions? Well no, but at least there would be confidence that her direction was based on an intelligent analysis of the facts guided by her tenure at the Fed.
Thomas Ferraro of Reuters quotes Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Chicago’s Northern Trust “She really isn’t a new hand at all. She certainly will not need to be oriented to what’s going on over there, and so I expect a very smooth transition.”
A “smooth transition” is important as not to overly disturb the world markets who as to quote country singing star Tennessee Ernie Ford are as “nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full or rocking chairs.”
That’s how I see it……

Volcker Rule: Responsible, Meaningful Regulation…Maybe

By Ken Cynar, executive vp, Governance & Accountability Institute  Spawned from the fiscal crisis of 2008 and subsequent legislation, the Volcker Rule was released this past week and was surprisingly a reasonable, well thought out regulation drafted by people who know the banking business. Rather than being an assault on Wall Street banking, it appears, so far, to address legitimate concerns if in a somewhat complex 70 page rule and an over 800 page explanation. According to Reuters, — “While the U.S. rule bans banks from making blatant bets on securities or other assets, it gives them leeway to make judgments, such as how many assets they should buy in anticipation of customer demand. Banks had worried they would have much less leeway that what is being allowed.” (U.S. Volcker rule may have less impact on bank revenues than expected)

As with any regulation, its impact and effectiveness will be determined by how it is enforced and the “interpretations of the rules.” But for now it appears Washington regulators did not draft a rule that had the potential for putting the financial system in chaos. That does not mean that the rule was well received by all. On point it is long…very long. It is longer that the Greek Version of the New Testament and does have complexity that would make even cause Moses some confusion.

Allan Sloan at Fortune writes, “Great sound bites often make for bad policy, because things that seem wonderful and simple in the abstract frequently turn out to be hideously complicated when you try to apply them in real life. That’s my takeaway from the Volcker Rule, which was unveiled in mid-December after five different federal financial regulatory agencies — another example of real-world complexity — finally signed off on it.” (The Volcker Rule: Complexity trumps common sense)

While Sloan is right, I expected something much worse and am surprised at the reasonableness of the approach, but the complexity is a real concern. Sloan puts its plainly “The Volcker Rule is better than nothing, but it’s just not worth the effort and expense expended on it or the problems it has caused and will cause.”

Did Wall Street dodge a bullet and did the people get more protection from speculative bankers taking high risks with other people’s money…on balance I think that’s what happened. The Volcker Rule reigns in high risk and at the same time does not stop the banks from balancing their investments. Not a perfect law; but most are not. Now the challenge is how it can and will be enforced. That’s how I see it.


A Nuclear Disaster Still Occurring! By Ken Cynar, Executive VP. Governance & Accountability Institute

by Ken Cynar – Exec VP – G&A Institute

Since the nuclear accident at the Fukushima nuclear power facility in Japan two and a half years ago Accountability Central has been tracking carefully the response from the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power, the owner/operator of the site. Despite some very heroic efforts by individual company employees and local managers, the overall company and government response has been subpar and bordering on disastrous.

The greater concern appeared for months to be evading blame and official apologies than addressing solutions to the problem. The withholding of information from the public has at times been shocking. Caused by a huge earthquake off the coast of Japan, followed by a devastating tidal wave that destroyed coastal areas in and around the plant site, this event is being called the greatest peacetime nuclear disaster ever.

Every week there appear more and more stories about the depth and seriousness of the event and its increasing impact on the people and environment of Japan and the entire Pacific Rim and beyond. Just a few days ago it was announced that 300 tons of nuclear contaminated water used to cool the plant to avoid a complete meltdown has been escaping into the ocean …each day.!

A member of an independent committee reviewing the event recently stated that the group “…agreed on one thing: that the damage being caused by the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant is far worse than government officials cared to acknowledge. “It’s time we faced the danger,” said Takashi Hirose, a writer shocked by the under-reported radiation levels he found on recent trip into the evacuation zone. “So many terrible things are not being reported in the news.”

While the Japanese response to the Fukushima event might be rooted in cultural traditions, its impact on the nation and potentially the entire world warrants greater scrutiny.

Read last Thursday’s Time magazine story The News from Fukushima Just Gets Worse, and the Japanese Public Wants Answers . It is eye opening and a bit disturbing!

Ethics & Generations by Ken Cynar, Executive VP, Governance & Accountability Institute

by Ken Cynar, Exec VP – G&A Institute

The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint. They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them. As for the girls, they are forward, immodest and unladylike in speech, behavior and dress. I once thought this was written 20 centuries ago by Plato quoting Socrates, but on researching it for this blog I found it more recently had gained recognition in a Forbes article or even in an Ann Landers column….its origin is murky.

But the point is that criticism of young people goes way back in time…way way back… with each generation critical of the younger for its such things as its attitude, dress and demeanor.

Last week an article appeared in Accounting Web outlining a study of Ethics among several generations conducted by the Ethics Resource Center. I found it of great interest.

The study contrasted the views of these groups on the matter of ethics. First they described them in these terms” The four generational groups examined in the survey are Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X workers (Gen Xers), and Millenials or Generation Y workers (Gen Yers). Traditionalists, born 1925–1945, are hardworking, respectful of authority, and value loyalty. Baby Boomers, born 1946–1964, are hardworking, idealistic, and committed to harmony. Gen Xers, born 1965–1980, are entrepreneurial, flexible and self-reliant, and comfortable with technology. Millennials, born 1981–2000, are tech-savvy, appreciative of diversity, and skilled in multitasking.”

They then contrasted the various generations’ views on ethics…not critical but just as pure observers. The prime difference was this: The study found that the youngest workers are significantly more likely than their older colleagues to feel pressure from others to break ethical rules because the pressure “eases as workers spend more time in the workforce and learn ways of coping with their work environment.”

Basically, peer pressure to break the rules is strongest in the younger workers.

The lessons of ethics appear not to be instilled prior to entering the workforce. Schools, colleges and the family unit do not seem to be teaching the importance of following rules and in being ethical. The influence of peers is stronger than that of society…rules are to be questioned and adherence is selective.

As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, that attitude does worry me, but it is the same mantra as “don’t trust anyone over thirty” or “question all authority.” (Remember those from the 1960s?) It gives food for thought and debateon what is being taught within the family unit and through the educational process by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers.

You can read more about the report Ethical Behavior Differs Among Generations.” What generation do you belong to – and what are your thoughts on this?

The Sustainability of Life by Ken Cynar, Executive VP, G&A Institute

Certainly the ultimate Sustainability is the extension of the life cycle — so we mere humans could live to 125 or 150 years of age, for example. But is this something we really want to do? A recent Pew Research Center Study explored peoples’ opinions on living longer and the results might surprise you. In the Washington Post article Americans sharply divided about dramatically extending human lifespan,  the poll finds there are interesting divides which raise all types of societal, ethical and religious issues.

“… fifty-six percent of Americans say they would personally not want treatments that would allow them to live dramatically longer lives…”

Some of the reasons given include, a drain on natural resources, negative impact on the economy, boredom and even “social, political, economic, environmental, moral and other questions, including on concepts of marriage, parenting and the gap between rich and poor…” (What might your reasons be if you agree with these views?)

One of the issues that seemed to escape the respondents is the state of one’s health during that extended life. If in the last 40 years of your life you would be physically and mentally in the shape of a current 90 year old, that prospect might not be very pleasant. Poor health in old age can be something that most people would not like to experience for an additional 25 to 50 years. But scientists quoted in the article indicate that health standards would be vastly improved and longer life would provide better health through the life-span.

Religious leaders also brought into the discussion with some musing that delaying the dying process takes away the opportunity to be with God.

My take is simple…I would like to live longer, as long as I was healthy and above all not bored. You would have to evolve a new value system, like writing a bucket list that would last 25-40 years…..and buying cars that would last 15-25 years (Detroit — are you listening?). And work at living a longer life with purpose and dignity. I love what I am doing right now – sharing news and commentary from around the world with our readers. And could continue doing it for another 25-30 years.

Read the article and the study. There are many other interesting results for the ultimate sustainability…a longer life.

Coal’s Future Getting Darker

The support for coal  throughout the world is in great flux.  There are negative messages flying about driven by the desire to decrease the impact on climate change and the overall environment by decreasing the use of this high carbon fuel.

Today’s story in Eco Business.com  — Coal at risk as global lenders drop financing on climate  — focuses on the financing of future coal power plants and related coal projects:  “First it was President Barack Obama pledging in June that the government would no longer finance overseas coal plants through the U.S. Export-Import Bank. Next it was the World Bank, then the European Investment Bank, dropping support for coal projects. Those banks have pumped more than US$10 billion into such initiatives in the past five years.”  

The Guardian (UK) also has a pointed story that only adds to the confusion.  This gamble on carbon and the climate could trigger a new financial crisis.    “At a time when governments are supposedly preparing for a global climate change deal that will cut carbon emissionsenergy multinationals are investing in carbon assets like there’s no tomorrow.”

While the future of coal has been shaky for years, there was no viable cost-effective  substitute until fracking caused the boom in natural gas production.  A classic battle is looming  between efforts to  protect the environment and the loss of an industry and jobs.  While there are deniers, the conflict is growing.U.S. is not waging ‘war on coal’: Energy Secretary Moniz .

Balance these events with efforts by representatives of “coal producing states” fighting for an industry that supplies thousands of jobs in their home communities.  W.Va. entourage meets with new EPA director .  While coal-fired power plants in the US just may go the way of the dinosaurs in the near future. Usage around the world is not expected to decrease as rapidly and might even increase, especially in emerging economies.

The coal issue is a perfect example of  what will become an increasing conflict between a greener more sustainable energy policy and job protection for the status quo.  We will be watching these issues very closely. For coal interests it is not over until it is over!