GM Chrysler and Obama : Automaker Debacle "a failure of leadership – from Washington to Detroit" : No More Bailouts without Restructuring

As reported by the BBC, no more bailouts for US carmakers GM and Chrysler if they do not restructure swiftly.

President Obama has correctly called the American automaker debacle of GM and Chrysler “a failure of leadership from Washington to Detroit that led our auto companies to this point.

Scott Oldham, writing in Popular Mechanics in the year 2000 (!), identifies many of the mistakes that were made in the past 50 years in his article History Lesson On A Century Of Cars.

From the very beginning of foreign competition in the automobile market, starting in 1959, when the German Volkswagen Beetle came onto the U.S. market and quickly cornered a 10% market share, America has failed to read the writing on the wall. As Oldham writes:

While the relationship between our nation’s legislators and our nation’s carmakers has been, at times, confrontational, it’s Washington that Detroit turns to when the road turns rocky.

When Japanese carmakers began to find niches in the U.S. car market starting in 1967, there was no sensible response by the American automotive industry or by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to face the openly visible competitive challenges that were facing them. Already in 1974, as the result of the 1973 oil embargo, many American car buyers opted for better-made lower-mileage Japanese cars, increasing the Japanese share of the automobile market to 20%. The Japanese soon even started setting up auto plants in the USA. They had the better products.

Oldham writes:

The Detroit River flowed red. The Big Three turned to Washington. Lee Iacocca asked President Carter for an $800 million loan guarantee to save the floundering Chrysler Corp. And got it. The UAW petitioned for quotas that limited the number of imports that could be brought into the United States. Those quotas were refused, but Japan agreed to voluntarily put restraints on its number of exports. Then Detroit pleaded for an investigation into Japanese “dumping”-selling cars at a price lower than in Japan, perhaps even at an unprofitable price, to gain market share here.

The Washington bailout kept Chrysler running then, but this did not keep European car manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover from successfully entering the market. The market share of U.S. carmakers continued to drop, without any corresponding export balance. The U.S. cars were simply too poorly made, too expensive and not economically efficient enough to survive in foreign markets.

Oldham, writing in 2000 about the prospects for the future, then makes a serious error in his article in adopting the flawed way of thinking that has categorized America’s view of the automobile world:

As we enter the third century of the car, Ford owns Jaguar, Volvo passenger cars and Aston Martin outright, as well as a third of Mazda. GM owns Saab passenger cars and a large chunk of Isuzu. And Chrysler, which briefly owned Lamborghini, went out and married Daimler-Benz, forming DaimlerChrysler.

Such partnerships not only blur the lines between domestic and import cars, they eliminate them. Should this trend continue, Detroit will one day effectively exterminate the import car from its turf-which has clearly been its goal for the entire second half of the 20th century.” [emphasis added]

Wishful thinking is not a solution. If that was Detroit’s goal, they have failed miserably. The only way that America could ever have “exterminated the import car from its turf” would have been to make better, cheaper, more economical cars. Instead, America continued to make poorer, more expensive and less economical cars and went into the SUV and truck craze in the 2000s, “fueled by” the totally mistaken conception that petroleum-based fuels were endless and that American car manufacturers were somehow exempt from the economic realities of the rest of the world.

One of the advocates of the SUV and truck craze was the chief of General Motors, who on March 29, 2009, was just forced out of his job by the Obama administration, after having led the company into total ruin in a decade of hopelessly flawed leadership. He epitomizes one problem of the corporate (and political) world in general, which is the over-prevalent hiring of CEOs who are “well-liked” and “popular”, rather than people who know what they are doing. One must seriously ask, who are the board members that keep these incompetents in office, year after year, when it is clear that they have no business being in the position they are in?

AIG and Obama : "I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak."

Say what you want, but Obama is sharp. To the rather aggressive question by someone in the news media who is clearly not on Obama’s side as to why it took Obama so long to express outrage at the AIG bonuses, Obama replied: “It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak“.

Hat tip to Disputing (“Conversations about Dispute Resoultion”), who were “surprised to learn that the standard AIG Employee Retention Plan (Bonus Contract) [as posted by The New York Times] contains no arbitration clauses.

Our comment to that is: If you are getting 30% of the business you write as a flat out cash bonus, who needs arbitration? Obviously, such – in our view – unconscionable contracts (unconscionable with respect to the shareholders) are not normality.

Wealth in America : Who Has the Money? : Wealth Income and Power in U.S. Society : Owners and Top-Level Managers Dominate : The Average American Loses

Who holds America’s riches?

Professor G. William Domhoff of the University of California at Santa Cruz is the author of Who Rules America?, a book which he describes online as follows:

My book, Who Rules America?, presents detailed original information on how power and politics operate in the United States. The first edition came out in 1967 and is ranked 12th on the list of 50 best sellers in sociology between 1950 and 1995. A second edition, Who Rules America Now?, arrived in 1983 and landed at #43 on the same list. Third and fourth editions followed in 1998 and 2002, and the fifth edition, upon which most of this web site is based, came out in 2006. Keep an eye out for the sixth edition, due in summer of 2009, which updates the story to include the rise of Barack Obama and the nature of his administration.” [emphasis added by LawPundit]

The description of the book is enlightening about the subject matter:

Drawing from a power elite perspective and the latest empirical data, Domhoff’s classic text is an invaluable tool for teaching students about how power operates in U.S. society. Domhoff argues that the owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant figures in the U.S. Their corporations, banks, and agribusinesses come together as a corporate community that dominates the federal government in Washington and their real estate, construction, and land development companies form growth coalitions that dominate most local governments. By providing empirical evidence for his argument, Domhoff encourages students to think critically about the power structure in American society and its implications for our democracy. . .

The current financial credit crisis in America can only be properly understood with a good background of knowledge about the wealth figures that Domhoff presents. Many important facts can be viewed at Who Rules America? online at Wealth, Income and Power, illustrative of which is the following graphic of the development of income in the United States between 1982 and 2000:

Distribution of income in the United States, 1982-2000

Year Top 1 percent Next 19 percent Bottom 80 percent
1982 12.8% 39.1% 48.1%
1988 16.6% 38.9% 44.5%
1991 15.7% 40.7% 43.7%
1994 14.4% 40.8% 44.9%
1997 16.6% 39.6% 43.8%
2000 20.0% 38.7% 41.4%
From Wolff (2004).

These statistics will of course have gotten much worse during the Bush administration. Essentially, the top 1% of the population already in the year 2000 earned nearly double as much income as it did in 1982, while the bottom 80% of the population earned 16% less than it did 20 years previous.

This pattern of wealth misappropriation by the upper classes in America has been going on for quite some time now and the current financial credit crisis can in a Franz Kafka like way be viewed as the point in time when the paying public had been bled so bone dry that the entire mercenary system of income in America became its own exploiting impediment – the small guys ran out of money and could no longer make their mortgage payments to finance the money-grab of the big guys.

Things have gotten so bad that the United States, according to Domhoff, ranks 2nd in the world after Switzerland, a nation of banks, for God sake, in terms of the total national wealth held by 10% of the population:

Percentage of wealth held by the Top 10% of the adult population in various Western countries

country wealth owned by top 10%
Switzerland 71.3%
United States 69.8%
Denmark 65.0%
France 61.0%
Sweden 58.6%
UK 56.0%
Canada 53.0%
Norway 50.5%
Germany 44.4%
Finland 42.3%

The result of this increasing concentration of wealth is power and corruption — under the motto that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The only available solutions to keeping the United States from dropping further and further into its present near-status as a 3rd world country are: 1) rigorous, indeed draconic controls of its financial institutions, and 2) quick and speedy redistribution of the nation’s wealth to the broad mass of America.

Indicative of the giant divide between reality and what you read in the newspapers is Domhoff’s graphic comparing the development from 1990 to 2005 of CEO pay (up ca. 300%), the S&P 500 (up ca. 140%), corporate profits (up ca. 100%), production workers’ pay (up ca. 4%), and the Federal minimum wage (down nearly 10%).

The papers are constantly full of overfed executives ranting about the minimum wage, but in reality, that is not the issue. A nation running its economy as a vast system of worker exploitation will not long endure and America must get its act together quickly if it is to survive the present financial crisis and move forward, or – perhaps forever – fall behind. Heed the warning signs.

Hedge Fund Managers Fleece the Country and the World of Yet More Billions

Svea Herbst-Bayliss at Reuters reports in Top hedge fund earners take home billions that the country’s top 25 hedge fund managers had their 3rd best year ever in 2008, gambling with other people’s money, and collected a total of $11.6 billion for their services, which averages out to $464 million per manager per year. That is YOUR money folks. YOUR money that you no longer have.

Looks like a good way to make a living – but for WHAT?

For WHAT product or service that is useful to society are they paid this kind of money? For making your life better? For improving their country? For something good done for the world? None of these things. They are getting paid that much for successfully GAMBLING with wealthy people’s money.

That the laws permit this kind of thing is one of the great mysteries of this universe. We would put a blank 99% income tax on those kinds of windfall profits for the good of the public treasury.

That would still leave the 25 managers $116 million to share = $4,640,000 annually per manager, which is a good years work and then some.

As written at the Wikipedia:

Hedge funds are typically open only to a limited range of professional or wealthy investors. This provides them with an exemption in many jurisdictions from regulations governing short selling, derivative contracts, leverage, fee structures and the liquidity of interests in the fund. A hedge fund will typically commit itself to a particular investment strategy, investment types and leverage levels via statements in its offering documentation, thereby giving investors some indication of the nature of the fund.

The net asset value of a hedge fund can run into many billions of dollars, and this will usually be multiplied by leverage. Hedge funds dominate certain specialty markets such as trading within derivatives with high-yield ratings and distressed debt.“

There is no reason in law or logic to give hedge funds these special privileges and to leverage money they do not have, giving them even more power than they already have with the pure cash at their disposal. These are the very same people who make billions by driving markets down, including the present market situation, and who then make billions by driving markets up, or did you think that last year’s increase in the price of gasoline was the product of Ma and Pa buying oil shares down at the local five-and-dime stockbroker?

What will now happen is that these same hedge funds will be buying up “toxic assets” for a song, i.e. all of those default mortgages, and then, when the economy is moving again, make a gigantic profit from their investment. Fools and their money are easily parted. In the hands of the professionals of avarice, money breeds money.

Does Your Average American Know He or She is Being Stolen Blind by the Upper Echelons ?

The Great Debate, a blog by Bernd Debusmann at Reuters, has some interesting statistics on the ever-widening gap between salaries at the American business top as compared to those of normal American workers. Debusmann writes in In American Crisis, Anger and Guns:

There’s less wealth to spread around now as trillions of dollars has evaporated with increasing speed in the deepening crisis. In housing alone, more than $5 trillion has vanished. The gap between rich and poor, a gap of Third World proportions, has not changed. A full-time worker, on average, made $37,606 last year, considerably less than in 1973, adjusted for inflation.

While CEOs made 45 times as much as workers in 1973 they make more than 300 times as much today, according to Holly Sklar, author of “Raise the Floor, Wages and Policies that Work for All of US.

That figure is of course exaggerated, unless you are comparing only the CEOs at the very top in Fortune 500 companies and the like, who of course are making millions of dollars per year. I have never been sure just quite what for, but people are paying them that kind of absurd money to be company figureheads under the mistaken assumption that only CEOs who get millions can make millions. It is a rather foolish idea, not supported by empirical studies.

In any case, one of the truly serious problems in America is that a great mass of the population really does not know what is going on, thinking that everything is hunky-dory just because they are in America, and not realizing that they are increasingly being stolen blind by the upper strata of society, who have been taking an increasingly larger share of the pie for themselves, and leaving less and less of that same pie for the vast majority of normal Americans.

We do not know what the solution to this confounded situation is. As long as people in America fail to realize that they have a problem, it will not be solved.

Major Causes of the Financial Credit Crisis : Stanford Magazine Tells the TRUE Story of Brooksley Born : The Rejected Attempt to Regulate Derivatives

Paul Krugman, who in 2008 was the sole winner of the Nobel Prize for Economic Science, in his book, The Great Unraveling: Losing our Way in the New Century, chronicles the optimistic 1990s which dissipated into gloom in the 2000s because of “incredibly bad leadership, in the private sector and in the corridors of power.” We are not always great fans of Krugman, who was not always as brilliant as he is claimed to be. In the book, he himself writes (quoted from the Wikipedia):

I was no more perceptive than anyone else; during the bull market years [of the late 1990s] some people did send me letters claiming that major corporations were cooking their books, but – to my great regret – I ignored them. However, when Enron – the most celebrated company of its time, lauded as the very model of a modern business enterprise – blew up, I immediately saw the implications: if such a famous and celebrated company could have been a Ponzi scheme, it was very unlikely that the rest of U.S. business was squeaky clean. In fact, it quickly became clear, the bubble years were both the cause and effect of an epidemic of corporate malfeasance. (p. 26)

One way to diminish crimes is to obfuscate terminology. The term “corporate malfeasance” is a nice way of ignoring blunt words like “theft” and “fraud”. Moreover, equating the plundering and pilfering of the American economy to an analogically unrelated medical “epidemic” adds an element of excuse to the crime because an epidemic presumes a sudden outside cause, and thus implicitly reduces the personal responsibility and culpability of the actors.

As for the causes of the current financial crisis, Thomas Friedman at the New York Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner from the year 2002, echoed a similar sentiment of a sudden disaster in the year 2008, referring to a meltdown and a breakdown, as if this were a short-term malady:

[Either] our country’s best-paid bankers were overrated dopes who had no idea what they were selling, or greedy cynics who did know and turned a blind eye. But it wasn’t only the bankers. This financial meltdown involved a broad national breakdown in personal responsibility, government regulation and financial ethics.

Meltdown” is a term taken from the catastrophic total or partial melting of a nuclear reactor core and really has nothing to do with economics. A “breakdown” is a sudden malfunction. Here again the terminology used by the author suggests – perhaps subliminally as means of reality avoidance – that the current credit crisis was a spontaneous unforeseen event, rather than – as we shall see below – the inevitable product of many erroneous long-term policies and decisions.

The cover text of the March/April 2009 issue of Stanford Magazine casts an illuminating light on the TRUE story, proclaiming in giant text: “The Woman Who Tried to Save Our Money* (*And the People Who Stopped Her)“. In an article titled Prophet and Loss, Rick Schmitt, accompanied by the photography of Erika Larsen, tells the story of Stanford Law School grad Brooksley Born, who was “named to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commisssion in 1996“, and who at that time already warned then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan of the coming disaster, and tried to implement regulations, only to be told that Greenspan did not believe in laws against fraud in the economic sector and that the market would take care of itself. Nor was Greenspan alone in his sentiments, which were shared by most of Wall Street and the political community, who were – already in the 1990s, and surely in the 80s and 70s – all busy robbing the bank.

Contrary to the – still erroneous – opinions of Krugman, who places the majority of blame for the present crisis in the hands of “radicals” in the Bush Administration – and there is no doubt that the tax and economic policies of the Bush Administration amounted to national theft for the benefit of the wealthy – Born’s story proves that the causes of the current economic situation go further back in time than Bush, and that American institutions and both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for what is happening, so that partisan politics here are totally inappropriate and just downright wrong. Both Democrats and Republicans were raking in the nation’s cash, and still are. All those bonuses are not going to innocent lambs who do not understand the situation. Quite the contrary. Here is a common law definition of fraud:

All multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions or suppression of the truth. It includes all surprises, tricks, cunning or dissembling, and any unfair way which another is cheated.” – Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed., by Henry Campbell Black, West Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minnesota, 1979.”

Warren Buffet wrote in 2002 in a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that “derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal, ” but no one listened to him, as Kevin Cool so aptly notes at First Impressions at that same Stanford Magazine in his editorial, “She Saw it Coming: Long before the meltdown, Brooksley Born rang the alarm.” And if people did not listen to Warren Buffet, a world-famous investor in 2002, they most surely did not listen to the virtually unknown Brooksley Born in 1997 . People were deaf to reality. What has changed?

As Rick Schmitt writes in Stanford Magazine online:

As chairperson of the CFTC, Born advocated reining in the huge and growing market for financial derivatives…. One type of derivative—known as a credit-default swap—has been a key contributor to the economy’s recent unraveling….

The swaps were sold as a kind of insurance—the insured paid a “premium” as protection in case the creditor defaulted on the loan, and the insurer agreed to cover the losses in exchange for that premium. The credit-default swap market—estimated at more than $45 trillion—helped fuel the mortgage boom, allowing lenders to spread their risk further and further, thus generating more and more loans. But because the swaps are not regulated, no one ensured that the parties were able to pay what they promised. When housing prices crashed, the loans also went south, and the massive debt obligations in the derivatives contracts wiped out banks unable to cover them.

Back in the 1990s, however, Born’s proposal stirred an almost visceral response from other regulators in the Clinton administration, as well as members of Congress and lobbyists. The economy was sailing along, and the growth of derivatives was considered a sign of American innovation and a symbol of the virtues of deregulation. The instruments were also a growing cash cow for the Wall Street firms that peddled them to eager takers.

Ultimately, Greenspan and the other regulators foiled Born’s efforts, and Congress took the extraordinary step of enacting legislation that prohibited her agency from taking any action. Born left government and returned to her private law practice in Washington….

Congress enacted the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which effectively gutted the ability of the CFTC to regulate OTC derivatives. With no other agency picking up the slack, the market grew, unchecked.” [link added by LawPundit]

Read the whole story here – if you want to know the real truth. There was no meltdown, it was not an epidemic, it was a long sustained period of unchecked and unregulated greed at top levels of public and private life, leading to the pilfering and plundering of the American and world economy to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars. Some now have much more and many more now have much less. It would be useful for the journalists of this world to track down who has that money now.

The role of the law is now to figure out how to get that money back, viz. to redistribute the windfall profits that the financial mercenaries have pocketed. Given the way that human beings are, this will not be easy, especially since much of the plundered money is in the pockets of those who in fact are still currently running the financial world.

Are derivatives and related credit and insurance scams the biggest Ponzi scheme ever imagined? Does it make Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid look like petty amateurs?

People of the law – you permitted it, either willingly – most likely, or, less likely, due to a well-meaning misunderstanding of human vices and virtues and of how the real market works. Mankind shows time and again that it is a selfish beast, when not properly constrained. That very conclusion is the honest assessment of humanity which is at the root of capitalism, contrary to the erroneous and amply disproven theories of Marxism-Leninism that men and women are good at heart and willing to work for their fellows out of simple good will. Most of them NEVER do. And that is why we have law and lawyers – both of which should function as the regulatory instances for keeping things fair and honest at the societal level. In the modern era, caught in the search by people of the legal profession and elsewhere to become “materially wealthy” and to “be important” or “powerful” in the eyes of their peers, the true role of the law as the protector of the common weal has been largely lost.

In this connection we refer to Linda McQuaig, who wrote Lost in the Shopping Mall in the Queen’s Quarterly in 2002, which we excerpt below from

[P]undits appear[ed] shaken by the astounding greed and dishonesty at the heart of [Enron’s] corporate culture. Still, some shrug it off as simple human nature, saying that we are inherently a competitive, acquisitive species, naturally inclined to push our own self-interest as far as we possibly can. But is this the whole picture? Is our society really nothing more than a loose collection of shoppers, graspers, and self-absorbed swindlers? Perhaps we are in danger of becoming such a culture, but it is important to remember that culture itself is a learned set of rules….

[T]he concept of the public good is one that has fallen out of favour in recent years. Over the last two decades, it has become increasingly common to dismiss the notion that we all share an interest in the broader community, that society is more than simply a collection of individuals all pursuing their own individual material self-interest. With the decline in support for the notion of the public good, we see a growing acceptance of private power, and a willingness to allow the corporate sector to dominate the economic and political spheres.

This emphasis on corporate rights is something of a departure from the early postwar years, when it was widely accepted that corporations should be subject to the control of society. It was therefore accepted that governments had an important role to play in regulating corporations and the economy, in redistributing resources through the tax system, and in providing social supports. Overall, it was expected that government would defend the public good.

The “new” capitalism of the last two decades is about diminishing the role of government and extending the rights and influence of corporations, through privatization, deregulation, and cutbacks in the size and scope of government. In many ways, of course, this isn’t really a “new” capitalism at all, but rather a throwback to an earlier kind of laissez-faire capitalism.

There is a tendency these days to see the aggressive new capitalism as inevitable, as rooted in human nature. It is widely assumed that humans are intensely acquisitive, materialistic, and individualistic by nature, and that therefore it is naive to think of any notion of the public good.

The late economic historian and anthropologist Karl Polanyi mounted a powerful challenge to this view — not on moral grounds, but on the grounds of observing the way people in other societies behaved. Polanyi argued that the intense focus on material acquisitiveness, which seems so natural in our society, is a historical aberration, something that really does not exist outside of the type of capitalist society that has developed in the West in the last few hundred years. All societies throughout history have devised ways to meet their material needs. But in other societies, meeting material needs was only one of the many functions that an individual performed in that society, and was considered a less important focus than other aspects of life — like religion, family, kingdom, clan, tradition, and law….

Polanyi argued that the one characteristic found in humans in all societies is not a focus on material acquisition, but rather a need to interact with other humans. According to him, humans are first and foremost “social animals” — an observation made centuries earlier by Aristotle. As social animals, we seek to relate to other humans and naturally form ourselves into communities. And, as social animals, we have a strong self-interest not just in acquiring material possessions, but in creating and maintaining strong, viable communities and in protecting the natural environments that sustain these communities. The point is not to suggest that humans are nicer than our economic theories suggest, but rather that human needs are different than we have come to believe. In other words, being part of a strong, viable community is not just a nice, idealistic notion but is part of our deeply rooted set of human needs, part of our human hardwiring.

If this is true, it raises the question of whether the new capitalism is undermining our own self-interest by limiting our ability to take collective action to protect our communities.” [links added by LawPundit]

Read McQuaig’s article in full.

Essentially, if one follows McQuaig’s thread of reasoning, then the solution to the present financial credit crisis is “collective action” “to protect our communities“. It will be interesting to see how that necessity guides government and private policies in the months ahead.

Europeana Relaunched Again : The European Union Digital Cultural Resource Project Appears in Improved From with over 4 Million Digital Items

We were informed by email today that Europeana, the digital cultural resource project of the European Union, currently presenting access to over 4 million digital items at museums and libraries throughout the EU, has relaunched again after a problematic start in November.

Europeana explains what it is about, and provides to us a list of the partner organizations that make materials available to Europeana.

That same “about us” page provides us with an overview of Europeana as follows:

The [European] Commission has been working for a number of years on projects to boost the digital economy. These prepared the ground for an online service that would bring together Europe’s cultural heritage.

The idea for Europeana came from a letter to the Presidency of Council and to the Commission on 28 April 2005. Six Heads of State and Government suggested the creation of a virtual European library, aiming to make Europe’s cultural and scientific resources accessible for all.

On 30 September 2005 the European Commission published the i2010: communication on digital libraries, where it announced its strategy to promote and support the creation of a European digital library, as a strategic goal within the European Information Society i2010 Initiative, which aims to foster growth and jobs in the information society and media industries. The European Commission’s goal for Europeana is to make European information resources easier to use in an online environment. It will build on Europe’s rich heritage, combining multicultural and multilingual environments with technological advances and new business models.

The Europeana prototype is the result of a 2-year project that began in July 2007. went live on 20 November 2008, launched by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

Europeana is a Thematic Network funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme, as part of the i2010 policy. Originally known as the European digital library network – EDLnet – it is a partnership of 100 representatives of heritage and knowledge organisations and IT experts from throughout Europe. They contribute to the Work Packages that are solving the technical and usability issues.

The project is run by a core team based in the national library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. It builds on the project management and technical expertise developed by The European Library, which is a service of the Conference of European National Librarians.

Overseeing the project is the EDL Foundation, which includes key European cultural heritage associations from the four domains. The Foundation’s statutes commit members to:

  • Providing access to Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage though a cross-domain portal
  • Co-operating in the delivery and sustainability of the joint portal
  • Stimulating initiatives to bring together existing digital content
  • Supporting digitisation of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage”

Master of Laws (LL.M.) at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University : Only Non-Law School in the USA to Offer This Program

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts offers a Master of Laws (LL.M.) for legal professionals tracking for or expanding their credentials to Public International Law, International Business Law or International Economic Law. As written at their website:

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the oldest graduate school of international affairs in the United States, announces the launch of a Master of Laws (LL.M.) Degree in international law. Fletcher’s LL.M. is a post-graduate, full-time academic degree for legal professionals. Fletcher is the only non-law school in the United States to offer this type of program, which is an ideal complement to A.B.A.-accredited programs and a superior learning experience for those developing legal, academic, business, NGO and political careers.

Read more at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Langenscheidt Dictionary of Business, Commerce and Finance English-German German-English published by licence agreement with Routledge Ltd, London

The definitive two-way Langenscheidt Dictionary of Business, Commerce and Finance (German-English English-German), now in its 3rd edition and published by license agreement with Routledge Ltd, London (“licence” in the UK) , and of which I am one of four co-authors, has a new link in English here, and I have changed the corresponding links on the LawPundit website which previously led only to the German-language page at Langenscheidt.

One reason that I am making this posting is that a random search of some library catalogues online indicates that there are still many libraries that do not have this essential resource, and if they do have it, they often have the totally outdated original 1997/1998 version which has been totally revised by us in the interim, and this includes the deletion of outdated entries. Even the Harvard Library has only the substantially improved 2002/2003 edition, but this runs only 1206 pages as compared to the 1440 page 2007/2008 edition. (Publication years vary because of CD-ROM versions etc.)

Especially in our contemporary fast-moving era of digital technology, five years of development are often like fifty or a hundred years only a decade ago. For example, SMS “texting” only really started in 1999, when SMS messages could first be sent between networks. The first BlackBerry integrating a cell phone was introduced in 2001. (A “cell phone”, by the way, is called a “mobile phone” in the UK and a “Handy” in Germany – go figure). The current 3G mobile phone system, without which modern mobile phones could not do what they do, took off only in 2004.

The speed of change is shown by the development of online social networking. The social online network Friendster and also Plaxo Contacts were launched in 2002 and followed by MySpace (see U.S. President Obama’s MySpace) and also the social business network LinkedIn in 2003, with the now most popular Facebook launched in 2004 and opened to the general public only in 2006. Twitter took off in 2007 and even U.S. President Obama used it before his inauguration in 2009. Tremendous changes as a result are taking place in the way social and business relationships are taking place – in the shortest span of time. In order not be overwhelmed, one has to keep up.

In a multilingual context, it is absolutely indispensable to have the most recent editions of state-of-the-art dictionaries, and believe you me, even we have trouble keeping up.

The German title of our English-German German-English Dictionary of Business, Commerce and Finance is Fachwörterbuch Wirtschaft Handel und Finanzen Deutsch-Englisch Englisch-Deutsch.

This dictionary is intended to be a comprehensive, up-to-date standard work and reference for business and legal professionals, for companies and institutions involved with Germany in business, commercial, financial and political affairs, as well as for specialist translators. Special attention has been paid to the integration of entries dealing with digital technology and the European Union. The 3rd edition now contains approximately 136,000 entries and updates are made annually to the CD-ROM version of the dictionary, which is fully searchable from one’s desktop. New entries derive inter alia from personal experience and also the reading of cutting edge literature in the respective fields and that is why this dictionary is always one step ahead of the competition.

  • The chief author/editor is: Ludwig Merz (professional translator and university Lecturer in economics and business administration)

The co-authors are:

The fields covered (here by keyword) are: general commercial language, banking, taxation, education, the stock market, computers & the Internet, finance, leisure & tourism, property, import/export, industry in general, communications, management, media, patents, personnel management, politics, accounting, law, social security, statistics & mathematics, transport & logistics, environment, sales & marketing, insurance, administration, economics & business administration.

The Appendix contains business correspondence and documents, job titles used in commerce and management, International Standard Classification of Occupations, financial and economic indicators, cardinal and ordinal numbers, a list of countries, statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community (NACE), and Incoterms 2000.

For the librarians in our readership: the entry for the main library catalogue in German is found at the DNB (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, German National Library).

Otherwise, I have put up the essential library data at Good Reads, and it can also be found at Langenscheidt.

Dictionaries are not archives but living, useful, often daily consulted documents. Put this dictionary on your desk, on your active shelf, or, if you are a library, in your reading room. Much of what you don’t find online for English-German or German-English translations, is in this volume. Not everything …. but we are constantly working on it.

Conference May 21, 2009 at Stanford University : Advancing Socially and Environmentally Responsible Supply Chains: Innovation, Integration, Incentives

The Global Supply Chain Management Forum and the Center for Social Innovation at the Stanford Graduate School of Business are presenting a conference, Thursday, May 21, 2009 on Advancing Socially and Environmentally Responsible Supply Chains: Innovation, Integration, Incentives.


The conference is open to and directed toward:

  • Corporate Leaders
  • Nonprofit Leaders
  • Policymakers
  • Academics

The speakers are (photos, text and format by the Stanford Alumni mail service):

“Unveiling 2009 Conference Speakers

Cisco Systems, Inc., C. Kevin Harrington, Vice President, Global Business Operations, Customer Value Chain Management
Kevin is responsible for core, cross-functional supply chain functions, including strategic planning, risk management, compliance, leadership development, business intelligence, strategic communications, acquisition integration, organizational change management, global capability and market intelligence. He oversees Cisco’s green initiatives, social responsibility and collaboration programs, and the integration of these efforts across Cisco’s supply chain.
Hewlett-Packard, Judy Glazer, Director for Global Social and Environmental Responsibility Operations
Judy Glazer’s role at HP is to drive programs that implement SER policy into HP’s products and supply chain, from design and materials through manufacturing, distribution and end-of-life. This charter includes HP’s programs to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of HP’s ~$50B supply chain and implementation of HP’s supply chain code of conduct. Glazer joined Hewlett-Packard in 1989 and has held a variety of supply chain and engineering roles.
Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, Ma Jun, Director and Founder
Ma Jun began his environmental research in the 1990s, when he worked for South China Morning Post and published a book on China’s water crisis. Ma Jun worked as an environmental consultant and then a Yale World Fellow from 2002 to 2005. He is the Founding Director of IPE (Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs), which developed the China Water Pollution Map and China Air Pollution Map. Ma Jun was named a 2006 Green China Man of the Year.
Intel, Gary Niekerk, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility
Gary Niekerk has spent over twenty years working with employees, customers, and stakeholders on sustainability and reputation issues in his effort to protect and build the brands of some of the world’s leading high-tech companies. Gary has worked for Hewlett-Packard, Apple and Intel Corporation where he has spent the past 14 years. Gary’s current position is Senior Manager, Corporate Responsibility in Intel’s Global Corporate Affairs organization.
PepsiCo, Tim Carey, Director of Sustainability & Technology
Tim Carey is responsible for developing PepsiCo Chicago’s sustainability vision and strategy and ensuring that the businesses continuously improve. Tim’s team also constructs new manufacturing facilities and recently completed the two largest LEED Gold certified food and beverage plants in the world. For more than 20 years, Tim has developed and implemented social and environmental sustainability initiatives and programs at Hewlett Packard and Warren Buffet’s building materials company.
Riders for Health, Andrea Coleman, Chief Executive Officer and Joint Founder
As an ex motorcycle-racer and operations director for Team Castrol-Herron, Andrea used her long experience and knowledge of the motorcycling community to devise an innovative fundraising strategy to support the development of Riders field programs. Andrea guided the financial and funding development of Riders and it was awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ by Charity Finance Magazine for 2001. In 2002 Riders won funding in the World Bank Development Marketplace competition.
Safeway, Linda Nordgren, Group Vice President Supply Chain, Strategic Sourcing & Operations
Linda Nordgren is the Group Vice President for Procurement, Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain Strategies for Safeway, Inc. responsible for all Global Strategic Sourcing of raw materials, packaging, finished goods for Safeway’s 33 Manufacturing Plants and the Supply Chain Performance of Safeway’s supply chain network of 1800 retail stores and 14 distribution centers. She has been with Safeway for 20 years holding several Marketing Director positions including Systems, Business Processes, B2B and Supply Chain.
The Dow Chemical Company, David E. Kepler, Executive Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer, Chief Information Officer, Corporate Director of Shared Services
Dave Kepler has global responsibility for functions including Customer Service; Information Systems; Purchasing; Six Sigma; Supply Chain; Work Process Improvement; and Environment, Health and Safety (EH&S). Kepler is responsible for guiding the sustainable business development of the company and is charged with leading Dow’s Set the Standard for Sustainability.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Larry Wilk, Vice President, Worldwide Operations and Green Ambassador, DEG
Larry Wilk currently leads Disney’s efforts to expand the strategic use of low-cost country sourcing, leveraging key learnings from the successful development of Hong Kong Disneyland. For the prior five years, he was responsible at HKDL for Logistics & Operations Services (Distribution, Costuming, Custodial, and Outsourcing) & Operations Development – Back of House. Since 1985, Wilk has been involved with lead distribution, planning, and systems.


Toward the Rule of Law in Russia and Eastern Europe : Dietrich André Loeber : Augusts Lebers : Latvian Supreme Court : Mentzendorff House : Riga

This posting follows thematically in the footsteps of the previous LawPundit posting.

In the year 1974, I left my position as an associate with Paul, Weiss in the United States to come to Europe, heeding the call to work together with the late Professor Dietrich André Loeber at the University of Kiel Law School in Germany, where Loeber, later Dean of the Law School, was the Director of what was then called the “Institut für Recht, Politik und Gesellschaft der sozialistischen Staaten” (Institute for the Study of Law, Politics and Society of the Socialist States) , in short, “Institut für Ostrecht” (literally, Institute for “East Law”), which is now the “Institut für Osteuropäisches Recht (Institute of East European Law).

The current Institute is surely a much different institution than it was in my years there (1974-1979), when members and staff included Prof. Dr. Youn-Soo Kim (see also Kim), Dr. Teresa Pusylewitsch, Liselotte Rawengel, and Heike Pagels, all deceased, as also Rainer Wiechert, Dagmar Hederich (geb. Heusinger von Waldegge), and Waltraud Knoche, in addition to numerous visiting scholars from America, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Professor Dr. Wolfgang Seiffert succeeded Loeber as Director of the Institute in 1989. Loeber passed away in June of 2004 – see the wonderful biography (in German) by Gert von Pistohlkors of Göttingen and Seiffert passed away in January of 2009. Loeber and I stayed closely in touch over the years and I attended his 70th birthday celebration in Hamburg in 1994.

Very few persons who knew me in 1974 understood my move to Germany to work at Loeber’s Institute, giving up a great potential career at a major law firm and turning down an offer to join a law faculty in the USA. Then, as now, the mainstream legal community in the United States and in Europe has little conception of the importance of the work that was done, two decades prior to – but in clear anticipation of – the coming of a man like Gorbachev. See, in this regard:

Law and the Gorbachev Era: Essays in Honor of Dietrich André Loeber
, edited by Donald D. Barry, published by Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff. 1988. xix + 426 pp. inc. index, ISBN 9024736781 and 9789024736782, and reviewed by Bernard Rudden (1990) at the International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 39, p. 500, doi:10.1093/iclqaj/39.2.500.

Loeber’s father, “Senators Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. August Loeber,” had been a Justice of the Latvian Supreme Court (Latvian: then Senāts, today Augstākā Tiesa) between the two world wars. Indeed, as I discovered in the course of my research, Augusts Lebers (here with photograph), in terms of the number, extent and importance of judicial opinions issued by the Latvian Supreme Court in that period, was its most productive member.

[In terms of linguistics, by the way, the Latvian root “sen-” means “long ago, old” so that the Latvian Senāts as a court of course has the same Indo-European root word origin as the legislative United States Senate, as a congregation of wise men, i.e. “council of elders“.]

In this connection, among many other things, during my sojourn in Kiel, Dietrich Andre Loeber and I selected and organized important decisions of the Latvian Supreme Court from an enormous corpus of case materials from which the most important decisions were translated into English. Loeber’s 1995 publication Latvijas Senats, 1918-1940: Raditaji Latvijas Senata Spriedumu Krajumiem, ISBN 10: 9984908208 and ISBN 13: 9789984908205, was related to this work.

Loeber’s father’s wife was Emilie Mentzendorff, and Dietrich Andre Loeber was the philanthropist behind the recent restoration of the Mentzendorff House (Latvian: Mencendorfa Nams) in the center of Riga, Latvia, which today is a branch of the Riga Museum of History and Navigation. Below is an embedded panorama:

The Mentzendorff’s House in Riga

I first met Loeber when he was a visiting Professor of Law at Stanford University Law School while I was still a law school student. We became friends and kept in close contact. Loeber himself was a consummate expert on Russia, and when he visited me in New York City in 1974 to invite me to work with him in Kiel, he predicted that the then Soviet Union (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, also called the USSR) would fall apart within the next 20 years. Had I not believed his prognostication, I would never have left the United States to come to Europe. As it turned out, less than 20 years later, in 1991, the Soviet Union in fact ceased to exist, and the Baltic States regained their independence, just as Loeber had predicted. He viewed this development as inevitable, and, it would appear now, in an era of the global sharing of knowledge and information, as irreversible. The old days could never return. Something new was coming, and had to come.

Loeber spoke fluent Russian, German, Latvian and English, and also had articles published in French and Italian. During the Cold War he visited the Soviet Union as often as he could, but never as much as he would have liked, following his various academic pursuits. As he himself stated about his trips to the USSR: “This is my field. I have to know what I am talking and writing about”.

Loeber was a hands-on academic of the old school, the likes of which are probably seldom found at universities today. When Loeber was in Moscow in the Soviet era, he bought and wore Russian clothes, so that he would not stick out from the crowd. He was a good listener and a good observer, and returned from his Eastern sojourns with new academic insights. Whenever he heard thoughts and theories on Russia and Eastern Europe that he found to be removed from reality, Loeber would say something like, “Tjaa…. I was there. I am not sure.” Loeber, ever the diplomat, seldom contradicted his colleagues in the field openly, even when he disagreed. This diplomacy and his ability to keep things to himself made him a welcome guest everywhere.

Loeber’s main academic treasure was his immense private library on Russian, Soviet, East European and Baltic law. Whenever he found an academic book or other resource that he considered to be important to have, he would buy it or trade for it by offering Western books or other goods that were lacking in the East. Life in Russia and Eastern Europe in those days was very much a give-and-take proposition. As Donald D. Barry writes in the Foreword to Law and the Gorbachev Era: Essays in Honor of Dietrich André Loeber:

On a visit to his home near Hamburg in 1962 I first got the chance to see and use his personal library — without a doubt one of the handful of great repositories of materials on Russian and Soviet law outside of the USSR. Loeber always had not only an encyclopedic knowledge of legal sources, both common and scarce, but also the great ability to hunt down and acquire even the rarest of them.

Much of that library found its way to the East after the year 1991, thanks to Loeber’s donation of his books and resources. At the same time, Loeber also produced some marvelous books of his own. As Barry writes:

[H]is early training and interest in international law culminat[ed] in his magisterial East-West Trade”.

See Dietrich Andre Loeber, East-West Trade: A Sourcebook on the International Economic Relations of Socialist Countries and Their Legal Aspects, (No. 60, 4 volumes, 2304 pages, Oceana Publications, Dobbs Ferry, 1976-1977. ISBN-13: 9780379004854 ISBN: 0379004852. This book was created and published in the period that I was at the Institute, and I had a great deal of pleasure in those years to help André put together the materials and to edit that book.

What would André (for so Dietrich Andre Loeber was called privately) say about the current Western view of Russia and Eastern Europe? Here is what he wrote in Regional and National Variations: The Baltic Factor (published in Toward the “Rule of Law” in Russia. Political and Legal Reform in the Transition Period, edited by Donald D. Barry, pp. 77-92, revised papers from a conference held at Lehigh University, May 30-June 1, 1991. Published by M.E. Sharpe, 1992. ISBN 1563240653, 9781563240652. 402 pages):

The concept of pravovoe gosudarstvo [footnote 1: The terms pravovoe gosudarstvo, Rechtsstaat, law-based state, and the literal translation “legal state” are used in this paper synonymously.”] is now hailed as progressive and “socialist” in the Soviet Union after having been denounced for almost seven decades as a device of the reactionary classes. A veritable avalanche of journal article and books has begun to be published on the subject. One aspect in the heated debate has been largely ignored–regional variations. I am not aware of any single Soviet piece of research addressing this issue explicitly. This is surprising since we are justified in expecting such variations. In the West, for instance, we do not have a uniform concept of Rechtsstaat, but witness several types at work, one of them being the rule-of-law concept in common law countries.

In order to detect different concepts of the pravovoe gosudarstvo within the Soviet Union, one would have to scan publications of all regions with potential variations … at least fifteen legal subsystems could be identified tentatively….

Russia, the Ukraine (including the former area of the Don Cossacks and the North Bukovina, a former Romanian territory), Belorussia (both the Ukraine and Belorussia with former Polish territories);

Estonia and Latvia (which – similar to Finland – lived under a separate legal system until 1917), and Lithuania, now jointly known as Baltic states;

Moldova (including Bessarabia);

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the Caucasus;

the five republics in Soviet Central Asia.

… [LawPundit: note that these are the regions between whom the most recent conflicts have arisen]

E. Ridamae, an author in Estonia [writes]:

As regards pravovoe gosudarstvo, we are probably still at the level of pronouncing declarations from high tribunes…. Let us remember how (socialist) legality was devalued: Despite its permanent strengthening and safeguarding, it became a mass (socialist) lawlessness, as it turns out now after the fact (zadnim chislom). We probably do not yet know what a pravovoe gosudarstvo actually means….First we have to find out…how to liquidate collisions between the right of self-determination and superpower interests.” [footnote 89, “Glassnost’, demokratiia, Sovetskaia vlast’, pravovoe gosudarstvo,” Sovetskoe pravo (Talinn) 1989 No. 4, 219-222, 222]

This point was missed by John Lloyd, writing in the Financial Times in 1990. For him the “process of the creation of a law-governed state in the Soviet Union is the success story of the five years of President Mikhail Gorbachev. Not just successful: breathtakingly successful.” Ridamae, I submit, is closer to reality than John Lloyd.[footnote 90, “Law-Governed State”, Financial Times, 12 March 1990, VIII.]

And so, by wisdom of hindsight, Loeber can be seen to have been right again. The rule of law will not come so quickly to the East in spite of democratic claims to the contrary, because it is a concept not seen equally by all nations or in all regions. Only when this is understood and sensibly applied in a nation-state context, can true progress toward the sustained rule of law in Russia and Eastern Europe be made in the long term. It will never be the same as in the West.

Dmitry Medvedev : President of Russia : Video Blog at the Kremlin

We found it educational that the current President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, has a video blog, with English subtitles. For someone who grew up during the “Cold War” era, the idea there there is now a domain is really quite remarkable, and shows how very far forward Russia and much of Eastern Europe have developed.

Nevertheless, it is still a cause for concern that numerous people in the West do not accurately understand Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe. This group sometimes even includes some of the people who profess to be experts on this area of the world. Indeed, in past years it was always puzzling to this observer that the governments of Western nations did not pay nearly enough attention to people who did have some hands-on knowledge about Russia and Eastern Europe, but who – certainly in the past – appeared to be seldom consulted about that knowledge.

In fact, when one reads what Western academics, politicians and mainstream journalists write and say about Russia and Eastern Europe even today, it is clear that some of them often have avoidable knowledge deficits which could be greatly improved by consulting people with direct contacts to the countries in question. Lack of accurate information has the negative potential of affecting world political relations, which are consequently sometimes built upon exaggerated ideological differences and avoidable military conflicts rather than on down-to-earth issues involving practical world economic, social and legal realities.

In this regard, take a look at our next posting.

Maureen Dowd at the New York Times Gives a Modern Twist to the Gaelic Saying : Never Bolt the Door with a Boiled Carrot : AIG Forces Obama "Change"

When a Presidential candidate runs on the slogan of “change“, the first person who is going to have to prove that “change” has arrived is that same candidate when he gets elected.

The A.I.G. bonus scandal is proving to be the first precedent-setting playing field for determining whether Obama and his team mean serious business in diverting the country from the ruinous economic path taken by the Bush administration and the financial mercenaries it supported.

Maureen Dowd at the New York Times in No Boiled Carrots invokes the old Gaelic saying, “never bolt a door with a boiled carrot“, in warning the Obama administration that they are in extremely serious trouble if they do not act quickly and effectively to assuage what Dowd calls “the fury of ordinary Americans … at those who continue to plunder our economy.

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

The Intellectual Property Colloquium on Patents Copyrights and Technology : Free CLE Podcast on IP : Professor Doug Lichtman : UCLA Law School

We are very impressed by the digital legal innovation that is apparent at UCLA Law School. They seem to have a law faculty at the cutting edge.

One of their new online innovations is by Professor Doug Lichtman, who has “started a free CLE podcast on intellectual property topics“. We find this to be really great so we are spreading the word.

The website is Intellectual Property Colloquium.
Go there now and check it out.

The graphic below is ONLY a scan of ours. The controls are not operative.
Go to Intellectual Property Colloquium to try it out.

NOT OPERATIVE. GO TO Intellectual Property Colloquium
As Doug Lichtman writes:

[E]ach month we post an hour-long conversation about an important patent, copyright, or technology topic. The format varies, but typically the show is built around one or several conversations between me and relevant guests. Our January show, for instance, was a one-on-one discussion with the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit about his court and how it is helping to evolve patent law. Our current show is an, uhm, lively thirty-minute conversation about copyright law’s statutory damages regime between me and Harvard’s Charlie Nesson, followed by clips from four other interviews I did with relevant academics and even the General Counsel of the RIAA. Our very first show was a live show with Fred von Lohmann of the EFF, me, and an audience of about thirty people, including students and faculty at UCLA.

One charm of the site is that we offer completely free CLE credit to lawyers who listen. All of our previous shows qualify in New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Washington, and we plan to add more states later this year. That’s not itself a reason to listen, obviously, but it is an added perk for lawyers who might need that extra nudge in order to justify spending the time.

I’m really excited with the shows (we are getting better all the time)….

The site is at You can download or stream the shows from there, and there is also an archive of our older shows in case any of those might catch your eye as good blog fodder.

Sounds good.

LawPundit Posting on RSS and Atom Feed Formats Cited in MIT Masters Thesis by Anand Rajagopal: A Knowledge Services Roadmap for Online Learning

In his MIT Masters Thesis, A Knowledge Services Roadmap for Online Learning, SM, 2005 (Feb 2005), Anand Rajagopal cites to the LawPundit posting ATOM vs. RSS – Advantages of ATOM – The Monopolists Lose.

The Thesis was certified by John R. Williams and accepted by Dava J. Newman and Andrew Whittle.

We found that to be rather unique and for that reason wanted to put this down for the record.

This is a mirror of a posting at