Enlightened Conflict

the ongoing Trump crap show (a diary)

January 5th, 2017

 bullshit type

===========

“Bullshit is a greater enemy to the truth than lies are.”

 

Harry Frankfurt

=========

 

Well.

 

If I got paid by the word with regard to everything I have received about

Trump and everything I have written in response about the ongoing Trump shit show <almost 18000 words in one week on the asshat himself> … well … suffice it to say I would most likely be lounging outside the Deux Magots with a funny looking beret on my head sipping on some French espresso living the large life.

 

 

That said.

 

 

I admit

 

When I share my thoughts I am not quite sure if my Trump frame of reference is “amateur trying to do a professional’s job” or sheer incompetence or bullshit languagedangerous naiveté <simplistic thinking applied to a complex issue> or lack of understanding of how to lead, purposeful ignorance or he is just a purposefully ignorant dumbass … regardless … all of it always through the filter that “strength is only conveyed through an obvious façade of unwavering thin skinned bombastic narcissism”.

 

In addition … I never really know if I am assessing lies or bullshit.

To lie assumes a presumption the person actually knows the truth <and I often seriously doubt he knows what the hell he is talking about> while bullshit, by contrast, does not know or care whether what s/he says is true or false. The liar possesses knowledge of the truth, while the bullshitter ignores it entirely.

 

What I do know <and I’m concerned> is that the other morning on tv I saw a panel of journalists/news anchors simply laugh out loud over a preposterous trump tweet lie … and move on. He has normalized lying to such an extent they don’t even bother to respond or comment … just snicker at the absurdity of it all.

 

And all the while, as they snicker and dismiss, it is only The Donald who can tell the truth while everyone else is automatically lying.

 

Black is white.

Up is down.

In is out.

 

In this alternative world Trump creates an alternate truth … and somehow we are actually letting it become real.

This cannot be normalized nor can it be deemed accepted. The Trump shit show has to be publicly reviewed as constant bullshit.

 

Regardless.

 

The people who ask me about Trump bring up valid points and express valid thoughts. Love Trump or hate Trump he has made people talk about what matters.

 

Here is a random sampling of thoughts shared with me  … and thoughts I have shared in return:

 

======

  1.  Americans don’t think America is great.

The gap between rich and poor has grown wider.

As have black and white relations.

Hollywood thinks it’s great, because they’re in the stratosphere of pay.

Someone makes $2.5 million a month.  A month!

Good for him. Bad for middle class who can’t relate.

 

  1.   Most people don’t like the Clintons or the Bush’s.  They’re just slimy people.

 

  1.   Trumps vision is this:   Every deal must be great for America. Not even. Better. That’s winning.

We’ve been losing to the Chinese for years. Losing manufacturing jobs, losing companies to Mexico, etc. The fact that he wants those companies going to 3rd world companies to pay a tariff on their products coming back in to America, is genius. A fair penalty for not giving Americans here a job.

 

  1.   What’s nice about Tweets over Speeches is they’re his own words. Not rehearsed scripts written by others. It’s real. Raw. Right or wrong. It’s honest.

=====

 

The thoughts are valid … if slightly misguided. But I answer every email I get and try and address each thought one by one.

 

Why?

 

The discussion is all that matters. The moment we stop talking with each other and debating with each other is the moment we stop listening and … well … we stop. Period.

And that is not good.

 

 

Trump’s message, dumbed down for America, is simple:

Make America great again.

 

*** uhm. This only works if enough people believe America is in enough of a shithole that it isn’t great now.

 

And he is a master at creating shithole perceptions:

election choices dimensions self interest

-Create more U.S. jobs <by implying unemployment is horrible levels … and it is not>

 

-Re-negotiate bad trade deals <by implying globalization is bad … and it is not>

 

-Make friends again with Israel & Russia <uhm … we are supportive of Israel with unwavering security support … oh … implying we should be friends with Russia … who by the way needs us … and we do not need them>

 

-Why?  Because the enemy of my enemy (ISIS) is my friend <oh … if it were only that simple … it is easier to just say islam is bad>. Oh … also … by implying ISIS is an actual existential danger to us AND by implying it is a bigger issue than it is <that’s called ‘selling through fear’>.

 

-Stop illegal immigration (somehow-most likely a fence and more border patrol) <if it were actually a big problem … I would agree … he implies it is a big problem>

 

-Eliminate the bad parts of ObamaCare. Most of which, “only works, if you don’t.” <which, oddly, Clinton & Obama wanted to do and Republicans did not>

*** I would note on Obamacare … imagine where we would be if everyone had done what Kasich had done on day one … rather than fight it … he moved forward to see how it could benefit his people. If it had been embraced on day one it would be fine and have less fixes needed.

 

Other issues discussed?

 

Tariffs.

 

They weren’t good then and they are not good now.

All they do is raise the costs to us, the working people, as the company passes them along back to us. His tariff only on US company importing back in to US is almost as non-genius as his “tariffs on China.”

 

Its simplistic drivel that suggests you can penalize companies for competing in a free market.

  1. The issue isn’t cheap labor … it is varying cost of living nation to nation. In a global economy unless everyone has the same cost of living <and standard of living> there will always be other places cheaper to create the shit you want to create. Tariffs only exacerbate the issue.
  2. 90% of jobs outside of USA will never come back. We need to get over that. Those jobs are cheaper through automation in US if we demand they bring them back.
  3. Tariffs kill many small businesses who can only compete with cheaper goods outside of USA.

 

You cannot bring back jobs. And, practically, he doesn’t really care about the overseas jobs <and he shouldn’t> … everything he is talking about is about bringing back money. Which he is gonna need with his budget plan <that part is actually ok>.compete Authentic Self

 

Authentic.

 

Sigh.

 

What a sad state of affairs if we are using ‘like Trump because he is authentic.’

Authenticity has never hit such a low.

Especially if it is combined with ‘raw & honest.’ I will give him raw … but honest? He is not just a liar … he creates an alternative universe. And, please, please don’t say ‘all politicians lie.’ The majority use selective truths and facts. At least their ‘lies’ are mostly a distortion of the entire story. Trump authentically creates an entirely new story <lie>. He is singlehandedly destroying the concept of authentic.

 

Twitter & tweeting.

 

…. by the way, saying “he should make speeches not tweets,” is like me saying, “we should do television ads  not social media!”   The world has changed. Forever.

 

*** wrong. Leader’s words matter. And how and when you use words matter. If he tweeted his vision, if he tweeted words that led ?? sure. Maybe. But he has quotes using navigatedivided so much thru his rhetoric he needs, as a leader, to establish a construct for what he plans. His tweets appeal to his rabid base who say ‘do whatever you want.”

But most people want a leader to lead.

He needs more than 140 characters to explain. And, no, the world has not changed forever in this case. Twitter is a supplemental communication tool. It does not live in a vacuum. It cannot. It supplements, or compliments, events and stories and content. He needs to offer content.

 

China.

 

Well. They have a significantly lower cost of living and standard of living for their workforce. Their government subsidizes their private businesses. They are US economy from maybe 100 years ago.  TPP was our best way of curbing China … anything you may think is bad tradewise with China now … will get worse without TPP.

Unless we demand everyone to stop wanting to own a home and to need $70,000 a year to live … competing with China will always be difficult <and the same with any of the developing countries>.

The other thing people seem to forget is … if you are a global company the closer you can put your manufacturing to the sale … the lower the distribution costs.

I am not suggesting trade deals do not always need to be tweaked <not trashed or even renegotiated>. Market dynamics demand shifts in deals to maintain balance. But the overall goal should always be win win. Especially for USA. Because we have the largest economy … and we have the largest buying capability … we win if the tide rises higher.

 

Great.

 

The majority of people actually do think America is great <numbers show that>. And even middle class America does <albeit if you look at just the Republican numbers they think we are in a complete shithole>.

What many people have been convinced is that someone has it better than they people forget own greatnessdo … and they get grumpy about that.

Heck. We barrage people with so much negative crap even if they are happy they have been convinced they should be unhappy.

 

This may be the greatest example of the gap between perception and reality I have seen in my lifetime.

Small groups of people are desperately in worse shape, some people are in good shape but have not improved, most people are doing fine but hearing all the talk about the top 1% and feel entitled to some of what they got. That is reality. we have a higher standard of living than any country of any size in world. We live longer, are, other than fat, in good health, best and largest economy in the world, low unemployment, low overall violence <with isolated pockets which people distort to a larger view>.

 

That is Trump’s most egregious flaw. He distorts “the one” into “the many.” He implies an isolated situation is indicative of the greater whole. And he does it with such hyperbole <and lies> even if most people do not believe it … it elevates whatever perception you may already have a little higher <therefore … he drags more people closer to believing we are in a shithole … not great>.

 

Winning & trade deals.

 

Oh. If it were only as simple as you suggest. Trade deals are not just trade deals … they encompass foreign policy as well as alliance issues. Regardless. Even if they were only trade … in a global world a ‘deal’ wins when it is balanced … you call it ‘even’ … one side does not win. If you do try and negotiate something like that you create imbalance in the relationship <which creates anger & frustration> and creates the kind of ‘why America is hated’ feeling which seeps into the population which … well … creates terrorists.

We seek mutually beneficial deals in which American companies benefit. The issue isn’t trade deals … it is deciding what we want the American economy to be and how we can insure the American worker benefits. Companies, in general, do not care about the labor force unless they need them. It is, frankly, not in their interest to care.  Their interest is to be competitive in the marketplace and make money.

============

 

job i am the greatest confidence trumpMy own guess is that Theresa, having sussed in advance that her interlocutor is a blithering saddo, will put him at his ease with an extravagant compliment about his non-existent personal magnetism. “That thing on your head is divine,” she will be already saying during the soup course. “So elegant, yet so masculine.

How do you keep it in place? Surely only the strongest industrial adhesive can contain something so powerfully virile?”

By that time, she will be breathing in his ear and he eating out of her hand. Cue violins.

 

—-

Clive James

======

 

 

  • So as an Independent who loathes politicians and lawyers in general, I, like so many others are willing to give him enough rope to hang himself.  Which, he may do.  But my goodness, give it a chance.  Because as even Obama says;  “We want good things to happen. Because if he fails, we fail.”

 

*** I have never suggested I want him to fail. All I have ever done is demand he lead. I don’t want to give him rope to fail because if he fails … we all hang.

 

 

  • I LOVE that he’s pissing off Republicans, Democrats, Bush’s, Clintons, and everything in the political establishment. So do a ton of Americans.  No more politics as usual, and all these cozy-wink-wink jobs are going away. No wonder they’re all freaked out.  I say, throw them out!

 

Well.

 

No one of any consequence is hysterical <although I would suggest if I saw any of my employees hysterical I wouldn’t laugh or shrug it off as silly … I would sit back and wonder what I had done to create it>.

They are freaking out not because it is affecting status quo … but rather because <a> he shows no sign of being a leader and <b> he shows little sign he knows what he is getting into to.

 

No one is pissed off. These are people who take their jobs seriously and have serious jobs to do.

They are all concerned he is not qualified and not doing anything to insure he can meet the bare minimum to fulfill his obligations as a president.

 

If I wanted to hire a change agent I could have hired him as a consultant. He got hired to be a president.

People absolutely fear what they do not know.

 

Ultimately, that is my point. A good leader abhors uncertainty in their organization. It creates dysfunction and inefficiencies.

 

  • It’s amazing to me how many people criticize him, before he’s even been in office one day. What happened to Liberals wanting everyone to have a fair chance to prove themselves?…

 

This has nothing to do with liberals. People I know say the republicans are mortified by his behavior and uncomfortable with his lack of leadership skills to date.trump-money-winning-god-we-trust-captalism

 

And that is why you shouldn’t be amazed. Being president isn’t about ‘getting a chance.’

This is a country and not a business. And it is certainly not a real estate business with no culture and just “Trump personality” as a guiding compass.

 

But even if I do view this as a business leader … he has done nothing to show leadership, explain his vision <except in tweets>, explain that he understands the depth & breadth of what is demanded of his position <diplomacy>, or even made an effort to explain to the significant majority of the country who did not vote for him <democrats + independents + nonvoters> how he plans on uniting everyone after he was so divisive in the campaign <and continues to use words that divide>.

 

He sees uncertainty as a plus. And maybe in his little world of real estate it is … but in the bigger world where his words drive company value up & down, his tweets create diplomacy issues and his silence permits everyone to guess what he will do … there has to be some undergirding of certainty to hold it all together.

Any business leader will tell you that. He looks like, and acts like, a rookie in a leadership position. He is making the type of leader mistakes we make in our first big promotion.

 

On top of that … I wrote about this days before the economic piece I wrote … he acts like a president now but acts like his actions have no repercussions until inauguration. He is the president elect and not a citizen sitting at the corner of the bar bitching about ‘those damn politicians.’

 

And if you think everyone else globally is sitting around waiting to see what he really is gonna do … well … you are nuts.

 

While I criticize him incessantly for his words and his lack of understanding that words matter. I criticize him mostly for his lack of leadership. He has never run a company with an organizational culture. He has only run a transactional company. He would not know how to run a real company if you … well … tried to teach him.

 

As I wrote in my piece … I would have him work for me and I would direct him to do things because he is transactional. He would be great at sales and duking shit out on a transaction by transaction basis. But I would never, ever, permit him to run an entire business organization. our only hope is, just as I wrote, the cabinet people can see beyond the simple transactions and weld together a new global economy without costing us too much with regard to our overall role in the world beyond simple economics.

 

I criticize him because he deserves criticism. He is not a thin skinned brat. He is not a tweeter in chief. He is responsible for 320 million people. He is responsible for a country that currently resides at the hub of the global wheel.

 

 

In addition I often find in this discussion we end up confusing two issues:

 

Accepting responsibility and Implementing responsibility.

 

responsibility does not matter but it doesI have no doubt this administration will implement some things that will be good <I am just not sure at what expense … as I have written several times>

 

But as any leader worth a shit will tell you … in order to most effectively implement, particularly change, you need to accept responsibility, earn the trust in the responsibility and ultimately align people in a direction. Then you will be judged fairly in the ‘first year in office.’ He is showing he has never run a real organization before.

 

In business terms … he just got promoted to a fragmented organization in which one department adores him. This is exactly what happens when a sales EVP gets promoted to CEO of a service driven organization. Sales is known for saying whatever they need to say to make the sale … and the rest of the organization gets stuck fixing it or making it work. A good leader in that position stands up and lays out his guiding principles, his vision for what he wants to do and asks <yes, ASKS> everyone to contribute and give it a chance. A good leader says “if we all move forward, point out what needs to be fixed as we move forward, we can do this.”

 

A good leader knows if you do not prime the pump attitudinally … accept the responsibility … you are destined for a dysfunctional bitchy organization.

 

He should give three speeches. Not taped. Not tweeted. Speeches.

 

  • Explain his campaign rhetoric. “I may not say the right thing every time but apply this filter with everything because my intent always remains “x” …” <note: albeit I tend to believe he has no idea what he is saying in some incomprehensible word salad>

 

  • Explain his vision. <and I really do not care if it is economic at the expense of other shit … just state it>.

 

  • Explain change management. Any leader worth a shit will warn people of what is coming. If he plans on doing a lot in 100 days … warn everyone. If he wants to set some expectations for year one. Tell everyone. Any good leader knows you purposefully set the ‘judge me by’ goalpost … because if you do not everyone will judge you differently.

 

In addition … if he does this he calms global parties who are now scrambling to do their own thing. He doesn’t just need a ‘year to judge’ internally, domestically, he needs to calm global partners now.

 

He can do all of his now and stop the ‘fear’ and divisiveness <but he has not people response to changechosen to do so>.

 

And he needs to do it NOW because Obama is so well respected by the majority of USA and the world … and he is acting so differently from Obama … he needs to show people the bridge. Any good leader knows, if you are significantly different from the leader you are replacing, you need to calm some employees … and manage the excitement of others.

 

I don’t ‘give’ a leader anything.

I expect a good leader to lead.

 

And maybe the worst? He doesn’t even seem to understand the repercussion of his style. He assumes he has been crowned and everyone will automatically respect & trust <despite the fact he had a crappy reputation running his own department in the business> and he is oblivious to how his words divide and not unite.

 

He may be an excellent transaction dealer. And I hope he is.

Because he absolutely sucks as a leader.

 

Anyway.

 

I will continue to try and watch all the news stations and read shit online when I can <usually when I am sitting on an exercise bike in the gym and can watch CNN, MSNBC & Fox at the same time> … but Fox is a little tough to swallow most of the time.

 

I think much of the conversation is all stupid.

 

I think conservatives laughing at liberals is stupid.

I think liberals laughing at conservatives is stupid.

 

It’s all stupid because we all want the same thing … some just like different tactics than others. And getting angry over tactics is … well … stupid.

trump-welcome-to-the-circus-debate

But I think Trump is the stupidest because a good leader would have resolved all of this already … and he has done nothing.

 

And I am too tired of talking about how twitter is not a main communication tool <especially for a leader>, that Trump does not know how to lead, that his main go-to tactic is to appeal to people’s fears & doubts, and that I worry his personal opinions are more important than trying to appeal, and benefit, 320 million people.

 

But I will keep talking to whomever will listen about this until we make good progress and get what we should expect from our leaders.

Trump Putin enlightenment

November 6th, 2016

trump speaking at a rally june

 

“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

 

Winston S. Churchill

 

========

 

“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead.”

 

 

Jonathan Swift

===========

 

I am not a conspiracy theorist … never have been and never will be.

 

putin-militaryI will never suggest Putin and Trump have a “relationship.”

And I will never suggest that Putin has any particular interest in Trump, per se, but rather has a particular interest in what a Trump presidency may offer Russia.

 

I say that because we would be foolish to ignore the fact that Putin, an ex KGBer, would not want to insert himself and his country’s interests into any political field he could play on.

It was a tried & true Soviet tactic and I seriously doubt it has been shelved as a “useless failed tactic of the Cold War.”

 

In fact.

Over the past several years Russia’s “confrontational policies on the global political arena” have been well documented.

 

I say that because while we Americans tend to believe the world revolves around America the world is a bigger place … and Russia has been tied to politics & influence in Great Britain, France, Ukraine, Syria, a number of the past Soviet satellite countries and south America … as well as USA. Populists in the United States and Europe, from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to British politician Nigel Farage or Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have voiced their admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

It is a fact … proven and unequivocal … that over the past two years, in particular, the Russian political establishment has only intensified its confrontational policies in the global political arena.

 

They are doing so because the more they can diminish and divide global entities the more likely they can fill in the gaps and step in as an equal.

 

Regardless.

 

My decision to write something about this had nothing to do with any newspaper headline or twitter conspiracy rumblings about Russian intervention into America’s election but rather it had to do with a Dollar Store book.

 

Yeah.

Every once in a while the Dollar Store <yes … I wander in there on occasion> has a book section with a fairly nice selection of outdated first releases for … well … one dollar.

 

I get them and throw them on my stack of ‘to reads’ and sometimes good … sometime bad. The other night I went thru the stack and decided to pull out “The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin” by Masha Gessen.

 

Well.

 

Within the first 50 pages I saw one after another comparison point to what Trump says and how he behaves to how Putin is described <words and actions>.

 

To be clear I was choicefull with regard to what I pulled out of the book because the author writes with little objectivity and lots of disdain for Putin.

 

Putin is an autocrat but one with characteristics like loyalty to Russia, maniacal self-control, hard work, and a spycraft trained insight into other people’s attitudes & behaviors. Putin’s autocracy seems driven by a commitment to Russia’s revitalization on a global stage balanced by a fear of loss of control <hence his heavy hand leadership>. it is wrong to solely draw distinctions with old Russia <czar or Stalin> but it would also be wrong to ignore the desires to use what may be perceived as the ‘best of the old’ to create and embed in the new Russia.

 

But it isn’t that Putin sees himself in Trump <he may … without the buffoonery aspects> but rather what Putin sees in Trump is the power of divisiveness and the management of power <internally thru law & order and repressing the press> and a desire to not manage power <externally as in isolation and lack of desire to embrace global commitments>.putin-trump-hillary-obama

 

I read somewhere:

 

NO ONE IS EASIER to manipulate than a man who exaggerates his own influence.

 

 

Suffice it to say that Putin and Russia benefit on all counts with Trump.

 

Trump has denied the American people serious debate on policy because he has none himself to debate. Instead what he has offered a smothering blanket of lies promoting fear so that he confuses voters with regard to reality. The danger for the country is that his rhetoric <and potential style> creates huge divisions and brings chaos. He offers only a backward step and America’s “competitors” are happy to step forward.

 

Let’s just assume, take it at face value, that Putin will weigh in wherever he sees an opportunity.

 

The point in highlighting these interferences is not to call for permanent indignation <meddling in other countries’ internal affairs is not totally uncommon in international politics> or to feed the kind of paranoia that sees the Russian president’s hand behind every political development in Europe & the USA. It is, rather, to assess whether such tactics, if pursued, may work and whether any country which Russia targets might substantially change its course on Russia after the elections.

 

Anyway.

 

Here are some excerpts from the book.

Some of the thoughts I pulled struck me as parallels to the attitudes of a large swathe of the citizenry which gave rise to the possibility of Trump.

I will not draw any conclusions nor will I offer any thoughts. All I ask is you read and think about all you have heard and seen from Trump throughout this entire election process:

 

 

  • “He laid out his conditions for my appointment. He said, ‘As long as you don’t butt in on my turf, we’ll be fine.’” Kasyanov, entirely unaccustomed to street language, was struck by Putin’s wording much more than by the substance of what he was saying.

 

 

  • “He is a small, vengeful man,” was how she put it. The case against Gusinsky was, just like the case against Rozhdestvensky, a case of personal vendetta. Gusinsky had not  supported  Putin  in  the

 

 

  • The country was battered, traumatized, and disappointed. It had experienced hope and unity in the late 1980s, culminating in August 1991, when the people beat back the junta that had threatened Gorbachev’s rule. It had placed its faith in Boris Yeltsin, the only Russian leader in history to  have  been  freely    In  return,  the  people  of  Russia  got hyperinflation that swallowed up their life savings in a matter of months; bureaucrats and entrepreneurs who stole from the state and from one another in plain sight; and economic and social inequality on a scale they had never known. Worst of all, many and possibly most Russians lost any sense of certainty in their future—and with it, the sense of unity that had carried them through the 1980s and early 1990s. The Yeltsin government had made the grave mistake of not addressing the country’s pain and fear. Throughout the decade Yeltsin, who had been a true populist, riding the buses and mounting the tanks—whichever the situation happened to require—increasingly withdrew into an impenetrable and heavily guarded world of black limousines and closed conferences.

 

 

  • Yet the government seemed entirely incapable of convincing the people that things were indeed better than they had been a couple of years earlier, and certainly better than a decade earlier. The sense of uncertainty Russians had felt ever since the Soviet Union crumbled under their feet was so great that any losses seemed to confirm their expectation of doom, while any gains were transformed into fears of further loss.

 

 

  • As was the case elsewhere in Russia, a few people were getting very rich very fast, first by buying and selling anything and everything (for example, exporting Russian timber  and  importing  Chinese  umbrellas),  then,  gradually,  by  privatizing  Soviet industrial plants and creating new institutions. Many Russians, however, got poorer—or at least felt a lot poorer: there were so many more goods in the stores now, but they could afford so little. Nearly everyone lost the one thing that had been in abundant supply during the Era of Stagnation: the unshakable belief that tomorrow will not be different from today. uncertainty is a bitchUncertainty made people feel even poorer.

 

 

 

  • The same day, Putin made one of his first television appearances. “We will hunt them down,” he said of the terrorists. “Wherever we find them, we will destroy them. Even if we find them in the toilet. We will rub them out in the outhouse.” Putin was using rhetoric markedly different from Yeltsin’s. He was not promising to bring the terrorists to justice. Nor was he expressing compassion for the hundreds of victims of the explosions. This was the language of a leader who was planning to rule with his fist. These sorts of vulgar statements, often spiced with below-the-belt humor, would become Putin’s signature oratorical device. His popularity began to soar.

 

 

  • “Berezovsky would keep calling me and asking, ‘Isn’t he fucking amazing?’” she told me years later. “I would say, ‘Borya, your problem is, you have never known a KGB colonel. He is not fucking amazing. He is perfectly ordinary.’” “I was  curious,  of  course,  to  know  who  this  guy  was  who  was  now  going  to  run  the country,” she told me. “So I got the sense he liked to talk and he liked to talk about himself. I’ve certainly spoken to many people who were more interesting. I had spent five years writing about the KGB: he was no better or worse than the rest of them; he was smarter than some and more cunning than some.”

 

 

  • “I realized that this was how [Putin] was going to rule. That this is how his fucking brain works. So I had no illusions. I knew this was how he understood the word Patriotism — just the way he had been taught in all those KGB schools: the country is as great as the fear it inspires, and the media should be loyal.”

 

 

  • The informals had no common political platform, or a common language for the discussion of politics, or even a common understanding  of  the  place  of  such  a  discussion,  but  they  shared  two  things:  a distaste for the ways of the Soviet state, and an abiding desire to protect and preserve what little was left of their beloved historic city. “The people of our generation saw only a dead end ahead: if you did not escape, you’d face degradation,” Yelena Zelinskaya recalled twenty years later. Zelinskaya put out one of several samizdat publications that united the informals. “We could no longer breathe among the lies, the hypocrisy, and the stupidity. There was no fear. And as soon as the first rays of light seemed to break through—as soon as people whose hands had been tied were allowed to  move  at  least  a  few  fingers—people  started  to    People  weren’t  thinking  about money, or about improving their standing  in  life;  all  anyone  thought  about  was  freedom. Freedom to conduct your private life as you wish, freedom to travel and see the world. Freedom  from  hypocrisy  and  the  freedom  not  to  listen  to  hypocrisy;  freedom  from  libel, freedom from feeling ashamed for one’s parents, freedom from the viscous lies in which all of us were submerged as if in molasses.”

 

 

  • Rigged for me while espousing rigged is bad. This was the same man who, just a day or two earlier, had emphasized to his biographers how vicious he could be if someone so much as seemed to cross him, the same man who flared up instantly and had a hard time winding down, the same man whom his friends remember all but scratching out his opponents’ eyes when he was angered. Why would this man sit idly while one private company after another violated the terms of the contracts he had signed with them, leaving his city without the food supplies it so badly needed? Because it was rigged to end that way from the beginning, Salye believes. “The point of the whole operation,” she wrote later, “was this: to create a legally flawed contract with someone who could be trusted, to issue an export license to him, to make the customs office open the border on the basis of this license, to ship the goods abroad, sell them, and pocket the money. And that is what happened.”putin-tv-media

 

  • The day the media died. I spent Election  Day,  March  26,  2000,  in    I wanted to  avoid  the  entire question of going to the polls in an election I felt was a mockery, following a campaign best described as a travesty. In the course of less than three months since Yeltsin’s resignation, Putin had not made any political pronouncements—and this, he and his spin people seemed to think, was a virtue: he felt that dancing for his votes was beneath him. His campaign had consisted essentially of the book that put forward his vision of himself as a thug, in addition to a turn at piloting a fighter plane amid much press attention, landing it at Grozny airport a week before the election. His entire political message seemed to be: “Don’t mess with me.

 

  • But I saw a lot of Putin voters among the Chechens too. “I’m sick of war,” a middle-aged man in Grozny told me. “I am sick of being passed on, like a baton, from one gang of thugs to the next.” I looked around: we were in an area of Grozny that had consisted mostly of private homes; now there were only metal fences separating one ghost property from another. “Wasn’t it Putin who did this?” I asked. “War has been going on for ten years,” the man responded, exaggerating only slightly: the first armed uprisings in Chechnya dated back to 1991. “What could he have changed? We long for  a  strong  power,  power  that  is    We  are  the  kind  of  people  who  need  an arbiter.

 

  • <the Kursk submarine disaster> “I did the right thing,” Putin said, “because the arrival of nonspecialists from any field, the presence of high-placed officials in the disaster area, would not help and more often would hamper work. Everyone should keep to his place.” The remark made it clear Putin viewed himself as a bureaucrat—a very important and powerful bureaucrat, but a bureaucrat still. “I’d always thought if you became president, even if you were merely appointed to this role, you had to change,” Marina Litvinovich, the smart young woman who had worked on Putin’s preelection image, told me. “If the nation is crying, you have to cry along with it.”

 

 

  • … spent  nearly  an  hour dissecting Putin’s behavior, replaying some of the president’s least appropriate remarks, focusing  on  showing  him  still  on  vacation,  tanned  and  relaxed  in  light-colored  resort clothing,  smiling  and  laughing  with  his  holiday  companions,  most  of  them  highly  placed officials. Again and again, he showed Putin to have lied. The president claimed that the sea had been stormy for eight days, hampering rescue efforts. In fact, said Dorenko, the weather had been bad only during the first few days, but even that had no effect at the depth at which the Kursk was situated. Dorenko compared Putin to a schoolboy who is late for class. “We don’t know what kind of teacher Putin’s fibs are intended for, but we know what a teacher says in these kinds of cases: ‘I don’t care what you thought was right—I only care that you get here on time.’” “The regime does not respect us, and this is why it lies to us,”

 

 

  • “What a shitty time we’ve lived to see,” said the museum’s director, former dissident Yuri Samodurov, “when we have to stand up in defense of people we don’t like at all, like Gusinsky and Berezovsky. We once lived in a totalitarian state that had two main features: totalizing terror and a totalizing lie. I hope that totalizing terror is no longer possible in our country, but we have now entered a new era of a totalizing lie.”

 

horizon road destination open

  • “He has  put  Russia  on  ice,”  said  one  of  them,  a  man  in  his  fifties  with  a  beautifully chiseled  face  and  tiny  wire-rimmed    “That’s not necessarily bad.  It’s a kind of stabilizing effect. But what happens next?” “It’s like the revolution has ended,” said another, a former dissident with disheveled salt-and-pepper hair and beard. He meant that the society had reverted to its pre–post-Soviet state. “Old cultural values, old habits are back. The whole country is trying to apply old habits to new reality.” “I don’t think anyone really understands anything anymore,” said a third, a short man with a very big nose and a deep voice. I personally held him to be the smartest man in the room — and  he  certainly  should  have  been  the  most  knowledgeable,  because  he  worked  in  the presidential administration. “But all the changes in the last year have occurred in the area of public consciousness,” said another, a liberal political scientist who had come to prominence during perestroika. “The nation has come out of a psychological depression. This is going to be the toughest political era yet, because nationalist ideology is always the strongest.” “But he has to live up to expectations,” objected a scholar from a younger generation, a large man with bushy black eyebrows.

<note: a paragraph later someone noted “we forget this is no longer a liberal democracy … he doesn’t have to live up to expectations of the people.”

 

 

That’s it.

All I know is that every time the author described Putin’s behavior and words I could almost see & hear Trump. This is not to say Trump is a “Putin” <plus … we are stronger as a democracy with checks & balances> but it does give you some pause as you consider the potential Trump management style.

exit and dominoes (my thoughts on Brexit)

June 24th, 2016

 The Palace of Culture and Science is illuminated brexit engkand

 

“It’s an ill wind indeed that blows no good at all.”

 

<’Tis an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Someone profits by every loss; someone is benefited by every misfortune

Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898>

 

================

 

When asked what I believe … I believe the best thing is to dissolve the eurozone as it currently exists. Similar to the Caribbean solution there could possibly end up being euro-regions with their own currency and governmental alignments (with regard to economy) but I would dissolve it.

 

Oh.

 

Regardless. I also believe it will fail even if it isn’t dissolved.

Bruce McTague 2012

==========================

 

 

Well.

 

England leaving the EU.  This is bigger than England … this is about dominoes.

 

This is the first time any member of the 28-nation EU has chosen to leave, or ‘secede from’, the EU. And it will have repercussions for both Great Britain and the EU and the US and the world’s economy.

 

It will have repercussion for any number of things.

No one can truly predict the future state.

 

England should be fine … at some point … but people who point to the past success of an independent England will be mistaken because <my prediction> Scotland will now break away as an independent nation <if EU remains for them to go to>.

 

USA will benefit. Mostly because it is stable, strong and dependable … while the EU overall will have more questions than answers.

 

Europe will not benefit.

 

Here is what everyone seems to be missing in the entire exiting the European Union discussion <that asshat Trump included>… is the world safer with EU or not? <i will answer that later in this post>

 

I personally believe this is the first domino of the EU break up. I admit. I never saw this coming. Well. I kind of did. Back in 2012 I wrote the following in my ‘question of an ongoing eurozone’:

 

intent help flaws self best

Because I mistakenly thought it was a brilliant idea … but I was naive.

 

I selfishly thought the brilliance was having one currency when traveling.

 

My naïve belief was it was going to create a super-country centered around a common currency and creating a ‘super-economy’ to balance America, a growing Asia, emerging countries <Africa> and, at that time, I thought Russia.

 

Well.  Silly me. I ignored <or maybe better said … I was oblivious> to the fact to be truly successful there were three structural components necessary … currency, economic and political.

 

Without alignment on all three the Eurozone idea was doomed for a long struggle if not dismal failure.

 

I wish I had seen this following thought from then Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl  in 1991:

 

“Political union is the essential counterpart to economic and monetary union. Recent history, not only in Germany, teaches us that it is absurd to expect in the long run that you can maintain economic and monetary union without political union.”

 

The EU is, and was, a flawed concept implemented in a flawed fashion.

 

Regardless.

 

As Britain exits the EU here is the potential falling domino scenario.

 

The economy. Whew. Should the EU now breakup the rise of nationalism increases almost out of survival instincts. Globalization takes on an entirely new look … hundreds of smaller fragments vying for success all the while stability is not dictated by EU/China/USA but rather China & USA are the two legs of the stool with hundreds of different sizes gnats hovering over them.

 

Regardless.

 

In the here & now.

The top priority has to be to secure economic stability for United Kingdom. But sit back and watch how the economic vultures start lurking around the EU still breathing body. Economically the entire EU as well as Britain is going to be fighting maybe not for its Life … but certainly for Life as it exists today.

 

And all that does is impact … well … global safety and security.

 

When individual interest trumps the interest of a larger whole … well … conflict increases … and increase exponentially as the number of player increase on the playing field. Think of it like the old Rollerball movie.

 

Global stability will … well … no longer be as stable. It will most likely take on a new, different type of ‘managed chaos.’

And global stability will be challenged by increased conflict.

 

Conflict between competeing economies <and currencies>.

 

Conflict for global advantage.

 

Conflict for resources.

 

Imagine all of that I just said with regard to Britain’s leaving the EU if it pertained to the overall breakup of the 28 country EU. Especially the last one … conflict for resources.

 

danger wrong wayI begin this point by saying … ignore climate change at your own peril.

Climate change indirectly affects economies through access , or loss of access, to resources. The EU softens an individual country’s challenges with regard to resources <heavy droughts, lack of water in general, lack of food sources, etc.> management. Without the EU individual country’s resources will be restricted by their own boundaries … therefore… any resource crisis will potentially create desperate measures to resolve. That is called ‘war.’ Just remember … more wars have been fought over resources, like water and access to water, than religion, ideology or anything else.

 

Anyway.

It will certainly take some time for the UK to establish a new relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. So market and economic volatility can be expected as this process unfolds.

Just as it will take some time for the EU to establish a new relationship … well … with itself.

 

Britain’s economy is fundamentally strong so it will not crumble <but the suggestion it will rise to dominate the world as it did in the 1700’s is silly>.

 

But it subtly changes the dynamics of a global economy. And subtle changes are often like tectonic plates in which there are volcanoes, earthquakes and some inevitable major repercussions.

 

 

But.

 

The reason why Trump likes this is because he believes in success out of chaos. He has a warped vision of a competitive business environment in which if everyone is fighting, and the more who fight the better, the stronger the ultimate outcome.

That is his belief.

 

The reality reflects something different. In his world the few succeed, the few prosper, the few dominate the many.

 

And that, my friends, is what most likely happens if the EU fails.

 

And while I predicted it would, and will, I also suggested dissolving it so that some smart people could actually create the new norm rather than have the global entities scramble to create the new norm.

 

Lastly.

The voting & voters.

 

Lastly.

 

The voting & voters.

 

Overall there is a true misunderstanding or lack of understanding with regard to global trade and the global economy. And we will never reach a point where the everyday schmuck sitting at the kitchen table looking at their own horrible bank account draining bills to pay will ever truly understand. But voters vote, mostly, with the kitchen table thoughts n mind, not the globalization truth that exists.

 

The Brexit vote was a naïve vote. One driven mostly by individual thoughts.

 

And to make the point clearer … it was truly the middle aged kitchen table voter … because almost 75% of the 25&under aged voter voted to remain in EU. The young voted with the future in mind and the older voted with the past in mind.  vote young

 

Regardless.

 

In the USA it is kind of like the overall discussions of NAFTA and any other globalization trade deal or trade laws. From the kitchen table they look anti-American … yet … they create lower prices for us to put shit on the kitchen table and , in general, while they shift some jobs away from the US they also create jobs IN the US. that is the way a global economy works.

 

Individual countries & economies ebb & flow if they are tapped into the grater whole of a global economy.

 

That is what Britain now has to deal with.

 

And, ultimately, if you are considering Trump … that is what you need to deal with.

 

Britain leaving the EU was not a smart choice. But, in my eyes, it was inevitable.

The non-smartest thing was that it happened this way and wasn’t a planned exit.

 

I am not suggesting this is the end of the world as we know it. It is possibly just the beginning of a new look for the globalization economy world. One that may be more dynamic in spurts and more challenged at other times. Entities like the EU “flattened” economic swings. Maybe we miss the highs a little bit but we also avoid the massive lows. If only for this point we would miss the EU if this is the beginning of the end.

 

questioning an ongoing eurozone

August 30th, 2012

So.

 

 

It seems like I get asked my thoughts about the Eurozone a lot these days.

 

And I have been thinking about writing about the euro and the Eurozone for some time.

 

This could be a painfully long and intense post but I have elected to keep it quasi-brief and summary-like thoughts.

 

And I know where to begin.

 

Because I mistakenly thought it was a brilliant idea … but I was naive.

 

I selfishly thought the brilliance was having one currency when traveling.

 

My naïve belief was it was going to create a super-country centered around a common currency and creating a ‘super-economy’ to balance America, a growing Asia, emerging countries <Africa> and, at that time, I thought Russia.

 

 

Well.

 

Silly me. I ignored <or maybe better said … I was oblivious> to the fact to be truly successful there were three structural components necessary … currency, economic and political.

 

Without alignment on all three the Eurozone idea was doomed for a long struggle if not dismal failure.

 

 

I wish I had seen this following thought from then Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl  in 1991:

 

“Political union is the essential counterpart to economic and monetary union. Recent history, not only in Germany, teaches us that it is absurd to expect in the long run that you can maintain economic and monetary union without political union.”

 

Now.

 

To be clear.

 

He was not suggesting a super country but rather an alignment within constituents. The monetary, the euro currency, to be complemented by a fiscal/economic and political union so there could be control of individual country spending and coordination of economic policy within constituents.

 

chaos team alignmentThe currency came. But not the alignment of the constituents on the remainder.

 

The discussion of a fiscal alignment fell apart into a set of what they called “convergence criteria” which set limits to public debt as a % of GDP and deficits under 3%.

 

In my own pea like brain at that time I guess I had envisioned a quasi-euro parliament guiding this super cargo ship of economy insuring the overall interests of the entire Union were met while also permitting individual constituents the highs, or lows, they deserved – within a range.

 

Nope.

 

And I should have remembered that Caribbean had tried something similar in the late 50s. After dissolving that “union of constituents” in 1962 individual islands have struggled, and some have prospered, and regional combinations of islands have been successful <I am actually surprised more ‘experts’ do not pull this example out of the bag when discussing the repercussions should the Euro concept be dismantled>.

 

 

Anyway.

 

The Eurozone <EU>.

 

Without a governmental oversight <aligning, at minimum, economic interests> the Eurozone has turned into a one currency pegged to a median while all the constituents, individual countries, may have inflated or deflated economies against the median. Therefore it can make the best even better and the worst even worse. Oh. Which it did <oops>.

For example, while Germany is getting a lot of great press on its austerity and debt management one should remember that they managed a misalignment with debt in maybe the early 2000’s <or they assessed risk well and assumed some short term debt bubble> in addition their economy in particular has benefited from a currency pegged on a median, therefore offering great value in exports, when their economy is prospering. Some reports suggest that the media currency value has added at least three points to their overall GDP growth.

 

 

My fleeting point here is that Germany is not the formula for all constituents.

 

Regardless.

 

 

The euro concept has also eliminated a valuable tool – the possibility of floating an individual’s country currency against its individual economy. It doesn’t solve all the issues but it does provide a key economic tool to manage value without being burdened by the success, or failure, of others.

 

 

Look.

 

Using Germany (who is doing well now) as a guide for all countries is insanely stupid. Unless the countries revenue generating economy mirrors Germanys (which none do I believe) a country needs to customize economic management based on the country. And, once again, a country loses an important management tool if they cannot manipulate the value of its currency.

 

It is a catch22.

 

So.

 

When asked what I believe … I believe the best thing is to dissolve the eurozone as it currently exists. Similar to the Caribbean solution there could possibly end up being euro-regions with their own currency and governmental alignments (with regard to economy) but I would dissolve it.

 

Oh.

 

Regardless. I also believe it will fail even if it isn’t dissolved.

 

And I believe that thought maybe for an odd reason <which I frankly haven’t seen anywhere else>.

 

Lack of patience.

 

Let me explain.

 

intent help flaws self best

The best argument I have seen for why the Euro WILL survive is a simple one … while the Eurozone was a flawed design in conception <mainly because no one really wanted to build that particular house in the beginning> that as each crisis is faced ultimately the partially built house will be completed room by room out of necessity. And I actually agree with that thought. Crisis forces constituents to make the hard choices & decisions.

 

But.

 

No one has the patience.

 

Structural reforms pay off in the longer term. And no one has patience for long term <even if long term is really only 2 to 3 years>.

 

Even today we see the signs of it. Several of the steps taken to resolve the situations in Spain are 2 year plans <at minimum> to be truly effective. Yet if people do not see results now they clamor for more discussion and more solutions and … well … more of more. Is discussion bad in itself? Nope. But it also takes your eye off the ball.

 

 

In addition. While global economy actually needs more spending <and even some inflationary aspects> which leads to some increased deficits in stronger economies, because of overall fear, the people who shouldn’t be seeking to lower deficits will continue focusing on deficit management.

 

<by the way … that last thought is one America should be focusing on rather than debt>

 

 

In today’s world we just do not have the patience. Well. Let’s say in the western world we just do not have the patience. Asia <and China> tend to have a longer view.

 

Anyway.

 

I could be surprised.

 

And probably will be I imagine.

 

 

I was certainly wrong about the Eurozone when it was created. I could certainly be wrong here. Or maybe better said … I wasn’t wrong … I just had flawed thinking.

 

There is certainly an opportunity to strengthen the structure and rebuild the beauty in the breakdownflawed institutional architecture but I just don’t see how (1) the constituents will align to do so and (2) withstand the public scrutiny and have the patience to make, and take, the hard choices.

 

Oh.

 

And dissolving the Union? Painful. 2 years <at least> of the shit hitting the fan.

 

But.

 

Maintaining the current course <or current list of actions> is simply absurd as an ongoing solution … globally as well as european-wise.

 

Me? Rip the bandage off quickly. Lots more immediate pain but less pain overall.

Oh, those funny Europeans – French, Germans, Greeks

March 10th, 2010

I think it is difficult for us Americans to truly understand country-to-country tension. (well. unless the fact we despise that Canada has better beer and have disdain for their overall happiness). Oh, and I don’t mean like an Al Qaeda type thing. I am talking about that disdainful relationship borne of time.

We may understand fear on one hand (think Soviet Union in 50’s). Maybe we understand that. But emotional hatred/tension I am not so sure because, once again, it only comes with time and some good ole cultural conflict.

What I mean is that centuries old baked in emotional despising between Germany, France, Russia and England. That mutual suspicion that is an underlying thread in the fabric of everything Europe does. And in particular France and England. Even today it raises its head.

The channel isn’t wide enough.

I had to chuckle when I read that within the European Union a few years ago a Britain permanent EU representation invited their diplomats to craft a mission statement for their work.

One submission (not used) was “sticking it to the French, every day.”

Awesome. You figure it’s been almost 200 years since they fought in a war. (ok. So they had been warring off and on almost 500 years before that but c’mon get past it). So 200 years and that channel isn’t wide enough to buffer the disdain the English has for the French.

Stick it to the French. From a diplomat. Awesome.

Next. Germans tell the Greeks “get up earlier.”

Right now all of the European Union is kinda grumpy with Greece as they ran up a debt that, well, they cannot pay.

So. The Germans stepped up to the plate to tell Greece what to do.

First. Sell islands to pay off its debts. Good stuff. Anybody in the market for a Greek isle?

Next.  Two German politicians told Greece to sell historic buildings and artworks before receiving aid (anyone interested in the Acropolis as a summer chalet?)

Lastly. The German tabloid Bild wrote an open letter to the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou:

Dear prime minister,

If you’re reading this, you’ve entered a country different from yours. You’re in Germany.

Here, people work until they are 67 and there is no 14th-month salary for civil servants. Here, nobody needs to pay a €1,000 bribe to get a hospital bed in time.

Our petrol stations have cash registers, taxi drivers give receipts and farmers don’t swindle EU subsidies with millions of non-existent olive trees.

Germany also has high debts but we can settle them. That’s because we get up early and work all day.

We want to be friends with the Greeks. That’s why since joining the euro, Germany has given your country €50bn.

Sincerely, Germany.

Basically the Germans are suggesting “lay off the ouzo and maybe work a little harder.”

Awesome advice.

Oh. Those wacky Europeans.

decriminalizing drug usage and possession: A lesson in treatment versus punishment

January 31st, 2010

I have recently read three articles on decriminalization:

One on Portugal’s national drug decriminalization program.

One on a local US program which didn’t decriminalize but attacked the problem with a treatment option (in High Point, NC).

And an article from Cynthia Tucker in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

To be clear. Decriminalizing drug usage is not about making drugs legal. It remains illegal, in particular selling of drugs is a felony, but users & possessors are given the opportunity to be treated rather than punished. And I would like to also note that decriminalization isn’t selective to the drug. It’s not just about marijuana but everything (yes. Including heroin, crack, etc.).

I don’t want to get into a debate on “punishment matching the crime” I simply want to make a point on solving a problem. I read that oftentimes our existing programs are driven by the fact that voters want vengeance and politicians (wanting the voters) accommodate their requests and set up strong punishment programs. But after awhile even the most naïve have to see that whatever we are doing isn’t working.

Portugal is a wonderful example of how a treatment decriminalization program can positively affect usage numbers and all the violence that is typically associated with a thriving drug community.

Decriminalizing versus legal. Just to be sure everyone is on same page. Drug usage in Portugal is still illegal and drugs are confiscated when in possession and offenders are sent before a commission. What this means is that instead of entering the judiciary system (or legal system), offenders are sent to “dissuasion commissions.”

This encourages addicts to seek treatment (without fear of legal repercussions) and stop recreational users from falling into addiction.

And it works. Addicts entered into drug substitution programs have risen from 6000 to 24000, 1999 to 2008. Drug usage (trial) in general has decreased. And most notably, drug usage among vulnerable younger age groups has declined.

The evidence from Portugal since 2001 is that decriminalization of drug use and possession has benefits and no harmful side effects (headline in August 2009 The Economist). So the United States, which has been mired for years in discussion of whether marijuana should be legal or not, maybe should take a bigger view on things. Or maybe get some perspective at minimum. I am not a drug user (unless you count Advil)…well…not anymore at least.

As the article points out, when Portugal created this legislation there were no lack of doomsayers across Europe (“pure lunacy” … “planeloads of people would head to Algrave to smoke marijuana” … it kind of makes me think of Bill Murray in “Ghostbusters” … “madness. dogs and cats living together”).

To top it off, earlier this year an American research company (yes. American) published a study stating:

“In numerous categories Portugal drug usage is now among the lowest in the European Union”

Is Portugal the USA? Surely not. Does it showcase an example worth pursuing? Absolutely.

To me selling and trafficking drugs is a crime. And deserves to be punished. Using drugs is not a crime…it is a problem that needs treatment. Once again I am forced to point out (because most people who challenge and debate bring it up) there will be exceptions. But, please remember, you don’t build programs based on serving the exceptions. You develop successful programs to meet the majority.

While I envision that writing my thoughts on this stemmed from the fact I guess I never really thought that hard about how to help resolve a drug problem (beyond the fact I thought burning fields in Columbia didn’t seem to be a great long term solution), this whole decriminalization and community support talk has reminded me of a lesson. “Treating the problem” is often not as popular (it sometimes appears to the public to not have a strong enough sense of urgency), but it is often the most effective path. Maybe it is time America should think of a program like Portugal’s.

monopoly money

January 19th, 2010

monopoly_manOk. This is a multi-part rant on how money is being spent. Hence the reason I call it “monopoly money.” People banter about numbers that seem unreal <at least to me>. In addition … politicians throw numbers around in ways that is at it’s worst … simply lies … and at it’s best … partial truths. I do not like it. At all. But here you go …

Monopoly Money: International Version

So. On April 25th 2009 the IMF resources were increased from $250 billion to $750 billion. This new fund is called IMF 2.0 (as coined by Time magazine). I guess I should have been impressed with a $500 billion increase in one day.

But maybe I am just numbed by the numbers.

These numbers (billions of dollars) get bantered about like pennies in that jar you have on top of the refrigerator. Or maybe even better. Like monopoly money.

Maybe it is just me. But I think I have a good education (although I would imagine I am still not the sharpest knife in the drawer). And I have earned a higher than average salary in my lifetime. But I admit. I don’t get it. The numbers are so huge they just don’t seem real to me. I am the guy who still blinks twice when the heating bill hits $200 in the winter. Swallows painfully when I have to write the $300 car payment every month. Even that 55 dollar a month getting pulled out of my paycheck for health insurance is kind of painful (in a bamboo shoot under the fingernail sort of way). I see $750 billion and I wonder how the farmer in Congo or Zimbabwe (the 2 poorest countries in the world) feels about the trillion or so his country is gonna get. (I have to envision it takes up more than a suitcase of money you see in the movies…maybe 4 suitcases?).

I also find it is interesting to me that Ukraine is one of the largest beneficiaries of the IMF. It surprises me because I guess I just don’t think of a European country as needing money as much as, say, a third world country (I admit that is a naïve point of view). But I have to tell you when I read something like that it reeks of supporting democratic governments versus those who need it most. Oops. That’s rambling and off point.

This is about 750 billion dollars. I understand how the money is supposed to be used and how it is supposed to benefit “the people” and “the economy.” But the numbers are so big they are meaningless to me. (and I am a member of the 7th richest country club in the world). And that is a shame. Because I am willing to bet the IMF is doing a great job (although the trillions of dollars make me feel like they should be doing a triply great job). I just cannot wrap my arms around it.

It would probably benefit the IMF at some point to dumb it down a little for me and quit talking about 750 billion dollars.

Monopoly Money: Government version.

On August 25th 2009 the US released updated budget figures. As stated in the press…“America’s budget is on a dangerously unsustainable course.”

Okay. What facilitated that comment was the fact they estimate America’s cumulative ten year deficit will INCREASE BY ALMOST A TRILLION DOLLARS to a new total of $9.05 TRILLION DOLLARS (I bolded those numbers to emphasize them).

Okay again. You have to be shitting me. So a deficit of $7 trillion dollars (I am rounding here) was sustainable? Someone smarter than me needs to tell me how that works. I earn pretty good money. I have friends who don’t earn as much as I do (and somehow live within budget and quite comfortably) and I have friends who earn a lot more (and have a budgeted lifestyle). None of us earn a TRILLION dollars. All of us worry about money. No matter how much money you have you worry (trust me) about bills and the future and..well…you get it.

So how am I not supposed to worry when our country is 9.05 trillion dollars in debt?

Once again. Monopoly money. The numbers are numbing. And once again I admit, they become meaningless to me. Maybe because it is unbelievable to me. And that ain’t right. I need to care. And I need to know that the people managing this nifty little number care. And it would REALLY help me out if they stopped bludgeoning me with trillions of dollars and started telling me about making the right side of the balance sheet equal the left side of the balance sheet (see. I took accounting once). And I don’t want any “voodoo accounting” (that is what came after basic accounting in college).

Listen. When someone tells me we have a trillion dollar deficit, oops, I meant a 9 trillion dollar deficit, I know something is wrong. But the numbers are so overwhelming it is difficult to see a solution…beyond selling Park Place and getting some more money.

It would probably benefit the government if they would dumb it down for me and tell me how they are gonna balance a budget. (and don’t tell me a budget cannot be balanced cause you expect me to).

12/25/09 update:

On Christmas Eve the Senate voted to raise the ceiling on the government debt to $12.4 trillion, a massive increase of $290 BILLION over the current limit. If this isn’t proof that our government is simply playing Monopoly behind all those closed door meetings (and we thought with all those smart people they were playing Chess). The senate has Park Place, the House has Boardwalk and it seems every time you pass Go they are paying out money they don’t have. Maybe I am the only one…but this is crazy.

Monopoly Money: Stimulus version.

Ok. If this is monopoly money then let me use it for a moment and talk about “stimulus packages.”

The government keeps talking about giving money to the people to rejuvenate the economy. What they really want is to give people money so they can turn around and spend it.

Sneaky bastards.

And while I am sure people appreciate receiving a $750 check (or whatever it is) it just doesn’t seem like it makes a difference. Why don’t we do something that not only helps economy but also does something positive for the everyday people?

Here is the idea. Why doesn’t the government pay one month of everyone’s, except those in the highest tax bracket, living expenses? Mortgages, rents, gas, electricity, heck, how about including cable/internet if it only adds another billion to the price tag?

Why exclude the top tax bracket? Shit. If these people can’t manage their budget they don’t deserve getting more money.

Will there be people who abuse the program? Yes. Get over it. It will be a small percentage and we have to accept there will always be assholes out to “beat the man.”

Enlightened Conflict