Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders, China, Isis, et al.: This World Isn't Working Well

I'm chagrined at Bernie Sanders' lack of realpolitik:  he has
proven he is too old to hold high office by declaring himself
a democratic socialist. That philosophy won't fly here in 2015.
The United States in the 1930s did seriously entertain a swing
toward Socialism, as the unions were forming and gaining
political strength, set during the Great Depression largely
created by the irresponsible rich. But by the 1950s, post war
prosperity and the G.I. Bill dialed down super left fervor,
which only briefly reemerged in the 1960s, a very humane
and progressive era which finally, formally recognized
African Americans as full citizens.

Sen. Sanders has his humane dreams, and bully for them,
but he simply should have shut up about his self identified
democratic socialism. The U.S. is a mixed economy, having
some "socialistic" features such as libraries, schools, police,
fire departments, etc. It is also the home of arrant capitalism,
where rules of law and decency are broken every day. The
good senator should have merely pushed  his progressive
agenda, NOT labeling himself with a radical left term,
ruining any chance he might have had to become president.
He is, sadly, too old; attempting to resurrect the 1930s
proves the point.

China, in increasing its military goals and  driving her
hegemony over increasingly large areas is cruisin' for
a bruisin'--the U.S. is flexing its South China Sea
muscles even as I write, via the TPP and some "much-
needed military exercises".  Our nation doesn't realize
we no longer run the planet, which creates foolish,
dangerous, deadly and costly failed foreign adventures.
China, though, thinks she has a shot at  world
domination, will pursue it, spurred by her
overpopulation problems...stay tuned.

Isis, a la Sen. Sanders, is conducting a blast to
the past--the far past, where caliphates ruled
vast swathes of the Middle East. Murder is the
fast track to ultimate rule, and Isis is making
some impressive headway there. Again,
stay tuned.

I feel keenly for the young, the other animals,
the plants. Even beyond natural disasters,
humanity is the chief planet killer. The dark
side of our natures predicted such sad doings,
occurring currently and previously. But as
Professor G. Tyler Miller in California explained
in the 1970s, Earth has reached a tipping point
(also agreed to by demographer Paul Erhlich)
which won't be easy to back away from without
a massive, concerted effort, which I don't see
on the horizon or at the end of any tunnel.

This world isn't working well: where is the
help and grit we need?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Big, Bad Banks' Billions Breaking News Stories--Again

PBS, May 20, 2015: The usual suspects have now been fined
more heavily than previously, billions of dollars this time, for
manipulating international currency markets, according to
a young reporter for Bloomberg this evening. She also
reminded us that, as impressive as the amounts are, this
spate of fines will ostensibly not impact these mega banks'
bottom lines; indeed, execs at these institutions have known
the ax was about to drop and have had funds allocated and
accumulating for several years to pay said fines...whew!
No one has been arrested yet, which is par for the course,
although a FEW wretched Wall Street miscreants have been
jailed in the past.

The current financial scandal, serious and sinister as it is,
isn't new. The rigged trading involving five of the world's
biggest banks occurred from 2007 to 2013. Corporate
units of Citicorp, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, the Royal
Bank of Scotland, and indefatigable UBS have been cited
by the DOJ, the FED and other U.S. and European
authorities, hence the hefty fines, which won't, sadly,
badly hinder these behemoths by much.  As Simon
Johnson at MIT has so memorably said in his books
and all around the media venues, breaking up the
behemoths is the only real way to reel in most of the
detrimental behavior...or resurrect  regulatory walls
between investment, commercial, savings and checking
accounts, a la Glass-Steagall. (Dodd-Frank, a mildly
corrective palliative, passed only after most of its
important enforcement provisions were gutted.)

Just thinking about it takes my breath away--free
trade, anyone? What say you, Laissez Faire devotees
out there? For SIX YEARS the foreign exchange rates
(via the foreign exchange spot markets) between U.S.
and European currencies weren't real reflections of
the ebb and flow of that sainted monolith, the market.

I'll direct my special institutional ire at two of these
big boys, Chase and UBS, both of which are run by
two Americans: Chase's NYC giant Jamie Dimon
who also serves on the NY FED (hello SEC, do your
damn job, stop that) and UBS in Switzerland's Phil
Gramm, former Texas Senator and architect of
Glass-Steagall's demise. Both of these men should,
in my estimation, be in prison, as they contributed
materially to the Great Recession of 2007.

"As long as I got mine, don't care much for anybody else"
is the Wall Street Titans' credo, as well as their acolytes'.
Is such a sentiment worthy of the City on a Hill (per
Reagan, St. Augustine, St. Matthew)? It would seem
not. The United States is really little better than the
usual run of nations, although some of our PR is
inspiring, particularly evoked by our Founders.

To actually deserve such vaunted visions,
the U.S. could:

(1) Fix the SEC
(2) Fix the big banks but GOOD
(3) Stop hiding massive off-budget expenditures

Those three items realized equate to a tsunami-swept
revolution in the financial world, but everything the big
banks' boys do affects every one of us, even isolated
indigenous tribes let's revolt to a new,
more honest day, shall we?

Meanwhile, the banks' nine billion in fines appears mere
slaps on their collective wrists. Today's breaking news
DOES, however, have the value of raising resolve and
creating more questions...

I'm all for that.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Voila! Here is THE Solution to Pension Problems

Simply stop having, issuing, contributing to them:
Pensions should, by all logic and humanity, wind up
on the dustbin of history, in the tatters and ashes
they already are right now...

Are they working? Do states and counties across
the U.S. fully fund them? Check with Illinois,
Indiana and New Jersey to understand me; two
of these states fund ~45% of the contractually,
legally mandated amounts. Some of these pensions
are partially paid for out of the workers' pockets,
so there is a greater moral aspect (reread: cheating,
lying, etc.) to the various states' bureaucratic,
budgetary bunglings.

If pensions didn't exist, state budgets would be more
in the black than residing in the red; retirees would
not rely on them for future income; people would have
a more realistic, accurate awareness of  just what
their situations are so as to better plan, accordingly,
spending less as the decades pass, saving more.

Since economic dislocations have always occurred
(called "contractions" by economists), how can contracts
like these even make money or logic sense? Unions,
politicians, attorneys, accountants and judges better snap
to attention here: chaos is coming, if it hasn't already
arrived.  This situation is, has been, impossible for a
very long time; apparently, negotiators get caught up in
minutiae (political power plays, rivalries, ego, etc.) at the
expense of fundamental realities, so such contracts,
completely untenable, are written--and taken seriously!

Individual investments and savings, along with a revitalized
social security system, make more sense than over-generous
pension benefits predicated on an economic future which may/
may not ever exist, burdening the tax payers twice, through
government-funded pensions and social security.

My solution:

Make the greatest, most just payout amounts
now for those with pensions; then pass a
federal fiduciary act abjuring the entire U.S.
pension system from that point forward.

Stop the insanity; understand historical,
current financial reality, explain this carefully
to our people--THEN ACT.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Formaldehyde: From China, With Love

Do any of you recall the news some 30+ years back, when
formaldehyde was implicated in negative health effects from
being included in flooring, walls, and--Palmolive Face Soap?
Various infotainments recently blared more "formo" news in
our products, but this time, sent from our creditor China.

Frankly, I don't trust China's intentions. She is a very old
society, distinguished chiefly by her fecundity and very
violent, authoritarian "solutions" to internal/external
problems...over millennia. That is not what I'd term true
civilization: kindness, caring, willingness to negotiate, having
respect for life, especially children, is advanced behavior,
worthy of  the description, civilization. (--Granted, by my
definition there, civilization never has had a significant run
on the planet anywhere.)

Why did the United States allow itself to become so
indebted to such a suspicious society? Because Nixon
opened communications with China back in 1972?
Communicate, yes, negotiate, yes--but not the inextricably
intertwined, intimate relationship we now "enjoy" with

Hark back to 2007, when China imports included such
friendly items as the Emerald Ash Borer, lead in baby bibs
and cat food, ad infinitum. With "friends" like these,
who needs enemies? China may well be playing the
patience game, wearing us out slowly via economics
and harmfully defective imports...then, voila! China
rules the world, to everyone else's sorrow.

Ah, their latest gift, Formaldehyde: From China,
With Love.