Putin and Murdoch

Hello Friend,

A few days ago I threw out the idea that maybe there was a conspiracy about the Zika virus.  It was all in fun, because the chances of nefarious governments trying to decrease world population seems far-fetched.

Like you, I pay too much attention to the news.  The happenings around Trump’s white house are getting more ridiculous.  I even read where a House committee wants to reopen investigations into Hillary Clinton instead of digging into Trump’s Russian connections.  Of course, this sort of slant is loved by everyone’s favorite hateful news network – Fox.

And that got me thinking.

The Russians have always dealt with the cold war difgerently than Americans.  We spent money on technology and armies.  They spent money on spy networks and prostitutes.  Putin was one of their best.

We now have ample evidence that Russian hacking rings have been responsible for massive influences around the globe.  Facebook has admitted that there were 70,000 fake profiles set up in France in order to both destabilize the Macron campaign and bolster his radical opponent, La Pen (she’s a Trump clone).

Here’s the conspiracy.  The single greatest force that has been effectively destabilizing our democratic process since 1996 is Fox “News.” (Sorry, I can’t say this with a straight face, or without putting it into quotes.  Forgive me, Gentle Reader.)  That date is important, because that’s when Clinton (Bill) won his second term, and the Republicans were already preparing to put another Bush in power.

What if Rupert Murdoch got help from Putin?  What if they helped him in terms of supporting the network, making sure he got ad money, maybe even helping fake how well it was doing in the ratings?  All of these things are done on computers now, and we know how good the Russian hacking rings are.

Just think of the possibilities.  Putin hardly has to raise a finger.  Murdoch is doing the dirty work for him!  Creating whole new categories of “fact” and “alternative reality.”  Putting pretty women in front of lots of old white men, and then groping them behind the scenes.  That is pure Russian mentality.

Need some evidence?, besides this pretty darn good crazy thread of a theory?  Here it is.

If Fox “News” is so dang conservative and old-fashioned, where is the pure outrage against all the Russian influence we’ve uncovered since before the election?  Hacking into voting systems, spreading viruses, and leaking sensitive emails of Hillary and others.  What about the outrage we should be hearing even now?  Don Junior’s meeting with Russian agents?  Don Senior’s business dealing with Russians?  Perhaps that’s the real reason why he refuses to reveal his tax returns.

You can take it from here.  As far as I am now concerned, the conspiracy theory has hit its peak.  Fox “News” is a front for Putin and Russian influence in our society.  I know we’ll prevail, because we are far tougher than they are.  But now knowing there’s a Russian handler sitting behind every pretty Fox face gives the channel a whole new look.

Dasvedanya Tvarisch.

Yes, that’s Russian for goodbye comrade.  If you like Fox “News,” you should start learning the language.

 

 

 

Money Talks, again

Hello Friend,

The last time I talked about money talking was with respect to the velocity of money.  Velocity is another way of saying we hold onto our money for some amount of time before we spend it.  Someone who is very poor spends money within hours, days, of getting it.  Someone who is rich and wealthy may hold onto it for years, decades, before putting it somewhere else.  Today the government tracks this “stickiness” indirectly.

This time the talking money is speaking directly to us.  Yes, in this high-tech information age of electronic funds and stateless money (go check out bitcoin) the money that you will have in your electronic wallet is going to be able to tell all about itself.

From the moment that it’s “born” into the world of commerce, that piece of money will know who owned it and what it was traded for.  Did the owner buy lunch?  Tasty.  Did the restaurant buy food.  Good choice.  Did the cheese vendor pay her truck driver?  Good move.  Did that driver buy drugs illegally?  Got you!

Talking money will do more than make our real wallets lighter.  It’s going to enable an enlightened government to find and shut down operations that injure society.  Not only will it be able to track the drug dealer on the corner, but find his supplier, HIS supplier, and eventually all the people who are part of the operation.

Tax dollars being wasted?  Your money will be able to find that as well.  If there’s a general getting a lucrative consulting fee for doing almost nothing, your money will know it.  Politician spending campaign contributions on a luxury hotel room for two, while his wife is spending money at home for groceries?  The money will know.

Notice that I highlighted “enlightened” above.  A government that is so inefficient, so corrupt, or so focused on its own success rather than that of society in general, that kind of government can’t be considered enlightened.  And that government will do everything possible to keep the money from talking.  And if the money talks, the government can make sure no one asks it any embarrassing questions.

Here’s the good news.  If technology continues, and if our society doesn’t succumb to some other great disaster (see tomorrow’s post), talking money will be inevitable.  And if there is only one enlightened government in this world, then it’s very likely they will show the way for the rest of us.

The sad news is that we could be doing this today, if we really wanted.  I want.  Do you?

Thanks for reading.

 

Brilliant Suffering

I finished Larry Brilliant’s autobiography today, and enjoyed it immensely.  If you read his book, you know what I mean and can skip the remainder of this paragraph.  If you haven’t read this, I recommend it highly.  His life truly begins as he joins the love of his life in pursuit of the meaning of life.  Germinating at the feet of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, nourished by the Summer of Love and hardened by the abuses of that era, Larry becomes a radical doctor helping those no matter who they are.  His soul-mate decides their shared paths go through India, and to India they go in pursuit of enlightenment.  Guru Maharaji determines that Larry’s dharma lies in helping others, and that his karma yoga is through work.  The ultimate prize is eliminating killer smallpox, a disease that killed over half a billion people in the 20th century alone.  That’s more than all the wars and famines and tragedies all put together.  The adventures, the successes, and the failures are enjoyable told and hold many lessons.

Larry asks the ultimate question that every compassionate soul has asked through the ages: Why does suffering exist?  He typically pondered this while holding the body of a dead child.  I am going to answer this question in terms that rely on what we know of biology and ecosystems and philosophy.  I’m going to keep it as short as possible, so that much detail may be lacking.  And I’m going to answer it in such a way so that it addresses a related question: What is the best way to relieve suffering in the world in the long term?  Most recently, Jeff Bezos has asked this question, inviting his twitter followers to submit their suggestions as to how he focuses his charity.

However, neither Larry Brilliant or Jeff Bezos, or even most people are going to like the answer here.  For the truth is raw and uncompromising, much as Mother Nature shows Herself to be when in her full glory.  We tend to forget that to Mother Nature, all forms of life and death and joy and suffering, are all aspects of a single existence.

Moreover, when you look closely at the holiest of all holy texts in every religion, you see that they agree on that fundamental truth.  Life and death, joy and suffering, are all part of the same thing.  You can’t have one without the other.  A Tibetan monk explains to Larry, when he asks the question yet again, that suffering will always be part of the human condition as long as ignorance and obsession exist.  In the same scene, Larry is blessed for the simple fact that he is fighting a great scourge of humanity, and to alleviate any suffering is an act to strive for.

This is not an argument against charity, but an answer to the question “How can I be most charitable?”  At the same time, I hope to explain why suffering exists in any form, and why our best charitable efforts may in fact not appear to be charity.

Suffering may come from many sources, from outside ourselves, but also within.  We generally agree that some suffering is good for the soul, for it makes us tougher, makes us more willing to take risks.  But when is suffering too much?  Who is to decide?

Nature decides, using the most fundamental rules possible: life and death.  When she unleashed smallpox upon humanity, a third of its victims would die a gruesome and painful death.  Another third would be permanently handicapped.  The remaining third?  Survivors.

Now that we have eliminated smallpox, we will not know what made those survivors different from the rest.  What kind of world would this be if smallpox still existed?  Would it be a better world?  We simply don’t know.

And that’s the point.  For those of you who are spiritual and wish to second guess God, you can feel angry about the death of an innocent baby to such a gruesome disease.  But if God is playing the game for all of humanity, and not only that one baby or her family, then who are we to be critical?

Suffering exists, and we must learn from it.  As long as ignorance exists there will be suffering.  Such is the wheel of life.  No matter what your religion or how you talk to your God, fundamentally they all say the same thing.  Sub ek, all one.

Which brings us to the final point, how then do we best spend our precious charitable resources?  If you are moved to help someone read a book, buy groceries, or weed their garden, then you should.  However, if you have access to billions more resources, then consider this.  You should be pushing mankind further, higher, faster.  For Jeff Bezos, every last bit of his energy should be directed to making his dream of colonizing space a reality.  Spending even a few moments on any other endeavor may make him more popular, but only increases the risk of getting humanity off the ground.

Improving humanity means greater knowledge, and that automatically means less suffering.  It’s not the same thing as putting silver into a beggar’s hand, but it is far more lasting.

Namaskar

 

May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May they never be disassociated from the supreme happiness which is without suffering.
May they remain in the boundless equanimity, free from both attachment to close ones and rejection of others.

 

President Trump

What goes through your mind when you hear these words?

President Donald Trump.

My brainy and / or more liberal friends shudder.  Then they gag.  Then laugh, hug each other, cry, and finally acknowledge that it could happen.

Quite a few other people are counting on it.  In fact, they plan to vote for him.

And why not?  Who’s to say he won’t make a great president?

The sad news is that our country doesn’t have any standards for what make a president good or bad.  Popularity got George Washington in for two terms and he’s voted our best president ever.  But the second-most successful president was also one of the least popular; Abraham Lincoln.

So Trump may become president, and he may be a great one.  At least, by his standards.

We have a pretty crazy country going on here.  It’s run by millionaires for one thing.  And those millionaires take lots of advice from very rich friends who make lots of money off the rest of us.

Anyone can be president in the USA.  Of course, certain conditions apply.

So, my advice to all of you who may be feeling a political chill, is to put on a sweater and deal with it.

Should you still be afraid?  Sure.  But not because Trump got in.  He’s just the symptom.

The reason someone like Trump gets elected (or any other idiot you’d like to nominate) is because not enough of us ordinary people care.

The reason Trump may be president is because there are too many special interests who are allowed to spend as much money as they want.

The reason our government feels like it’s going to hell in a handbasket is because it mirrors exactly what is happening in our society as a whole.  Yes, our poor government is also a symptom of our disease, not a cause.  What is that cause?

We’re getting older.  We’re getting poorer.  We’re getting dumber.

Perhaps worst of all, we are all of us getting tired of fighting the tide.  We don’t want to stand up in public and debate the issues.  We don’t want to demand better performance out of our candidates, out of our government, and out of our journalists.

I’m also getting older.  And poorer.  But I’m fighting the dumber.  And I haven’t given up fighting, not yet.

This is my weapon; the pen, and education.

So, to all of you who also haven’t given up as yet, get up and get out there.  Fight!

If you don’t, you’ll have to live with the alternative.

 

Fired Up

Anyone have a boss?  At work.  Not at home, and siblings don’t count.

I mean, do you have a person at work who decides how much to pay you and whether or not you still have a job?  That’s your boss.

Maybe YOU’RE the boss.  How many people report to you?  How many people report to them?  Do you have the authority to hire and fire all those positions?

Maybe you don’t, and you dream about the power.  Like King Midas dreamt about being able to turn anything into gold.  Be careful about what you wish for.

I have this “power.”  It’s not fun.  I get to go to work and be friendly with everyone.  I get to see everyone on their best behavior.

Then I hear stories.  So and so did this, or said that.  Always behind “so and so’s” back.  Ah, the drama.  Do you like drama?

I can’t stand drama.  I don’t need to watch it on TV.  I live it every day.

Let’s make this easy on both of us.  “So and so” is officially “Sue.”

So I eventually meet with Sue and what do I do?  I’m friendly and business-like at the same time.  And watching.  And wondering.  Am I going to have to fire Sue?

Meanwhile Sue is telling me about her problems, her sick parents, her troublesome kids.  I’m sympathetic.  And I’m still thinking to myself, will I have to fire you?

Finally, something happens that everyone sees, no one can ignore.  I’m going to have to call Sue into my office and find out what’s going on.

I want to ask her: “Do you want this job? Do you need this job? What are you thinking?”  But I can’t do that, either.  It’s not professional, and it leads her to the “right” answers.  No, I have to find out what’s going on inside her head, and hold her to her job description.

The problem is that the job description for managers is a lot fuzzier than for others.  So I have to hold Sue’s feet to a fuzzy fire.

I have to think about this every time I meet with my coworkers.  It makes for a very full day.  One of these days I’ll find a job without drama.  Chances are there won’t be any people involved.

 

 

All Fed Up

I attended an economic talk last week from a former Fed economist.  His name isn’t important, and what he talked about isn’t that great either.

It’s what happened at the very end of the talk.

He accepted questions from the audience, and on a lark I sent in my question.  I asked what his thoughts were about the crossing of the M2 and MZM curves I talked about yesterday.

Mine was the very last question!  And here’s what he said.

Velocity isn’t important.

I’m not even summarizing what he said.  That was how he dismissed my question.

Not important?  How long we hold onto money isn’t important?  One of the most fundamental forces working against the Fed and inflation isn’t important?

Better yet, one of the best behavioral indicators we have of monetary “stickiness” isn’t important?  What’s wrong with this guy?

Here’s what’s wrong.  He’s part of the old way of thinking, and can’t see the forest for the trees.  The old way of thinking got us into the savings and loan crises of the 1980s, the internet bubble of the 1990, and the Great Recession of 2008.

Fixing our economy, improving our society, and smoothing out our lives so that we can start planning our future more accurately is going to take a new way of thinking.  Paying attention to velocity is more important than an arbitrary number like unemployment.

And that’s why I’m all fed up.  And that’s why I went out and drank with my friends.  And that’s why I hope they don’t invite him back next year.

Now, let’s all get out there and make that money slippery!

 

Money Talks

Yesterday we talked about “sticky” money.  The fact that it sticks in your pocket for some amount of time.  Maybe a day, or maybe a year.  If it sticks in your pocket for a year, it’s very sticky.

If you’re really making lots of money, you might think that you wouldn’t spend money very fast.  But it’s not so.  Some people with lots of dough do double duty and get that money in circulation – fast.

And here is where the big picture comes in.  Our Federal Reserve Bank is like the Supreme Court of Banks.  They are the bank that all the other banks bank with.

One of the best things for us is that the “Fed” gathers great statistics.  The one stat that is most interesting to us is the velocity of a few forms of money.  The first type of money is the kind that us regular people keep around: checking accounts, savings accounts, what’s in our pockets and rolling around in the cracks of our cars.

The other kind of money is a really big aggregate.  It includes all the money that is tied up in stocks, bonds, fancy investments, and things like that.  It also includes all the money of regular folk.

As you can imagine, the aggregate money includes everyone.  So, the people with no money are lumped together with people with lots of money.  The result is that it shows us what the big money people are doing.

Enough talk.  Here’s the graph.

https://research.stlouisfed.org/datatrends/mt/page12.php

If you can see this, you notice the red line represents MZM, that’s the big aggregate.  This includes the people with lots of money.  The number starts out at 2.6 and has dropped down to 1.4.  This means that the big money people and all the regular people together spend their disposable dollars about 1.4 times a year.  Every 8.5 months.  It used to be every 4 to 5 months before.  What happened?

Meanwhile the M2 line shows what regular people have.  It dropped from 2.2 to 1.5.  This means that the velocity of regular money went from 5.5 months to 8 months.

The overall conclusion is that money is getting a whole lot stickier than it used to be.  But there’s another interesting thing going on here.

Look at the second quarter of 2001.  See how the red and blue lines cross?  For the first time since the Fed has collected this information, the MZM has gotten stickier than M2.  Why?

Notice how it’s in the shaded area.  That means the economy was in a recession.  Hmmm.

Is it possible that people with lots of money stopped spending it as fast as they used to?  It is possible that they like holding onto it, even more than those of us without lots of disposable income?

Of course it is.  Perhaps it’s because of legislation.  Or maybe potential investments have dried up.  But it shows that one of the forces the Fed is fighting is that people simply aren’t spending money like the should be.

When people don’t spend money, it means there is very little pressure for companies to increase prices.  And if they can’t raise prices, then there’s little inflation.  And if there’s little inflation, then there’s no incentive for banks to give us interest.  So no savings.

Worse, the biggest tool the Fed has for stimulating the economy is pumping money into it.  Into us.  But if we hold onto the money instead, then the Fed has a problem.  They have to pump even more money.  And that can cause other problems.

So, there it is.  Sticky money.  Some of it is stickier than others.  And it tells us that people with lots of money don’t spend it as fast as those of us with less.

The money is talking.  Is anyone listening?

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Sticky Money

Behavior.  It’s what you say when someone sneezes.  And why you say it.  And where that phrase come from.  And why.

Behavior.  It’s also about how our species evolved.  And how all species evolve.  And where the first life-like molecules came from.

Big behavior.  Bitty Behavior.  Where do you want to sit?

I like looking at the big picture, mostly.  Sure, why we “bless” someone who sneezes is interesting, but not as interesting as why those sexy Italians can’t seem to make any babies.

Here’s a big picture item.  It’s called velocity by the bankers and economists.  It refers to the “sticky” component of your money.

What does sticky mean?  It means that when you get a dollar of disposable income, it sticks in your pocket.

What’s disposable?  That means it’s not rent, phone, or other expenses you HAVE to pay or you HURT.

Disposable income is what YOU get to CHOOSE to spend money on.  If you have any left over.  Do you want a fancy sweater?  That’s disposable income.  Do you want ice cream with those eggs and milk?  That’s disposable cash.

But if you never spend that disposable income, if you keep it in your pocket or savings account, then it’s sticky.

If you gave me a dollar and I spent it instantly, then it’s not sticky.  If the next person also spends it instantly, then it’s also not sticky for him.  And so on.  In one year, that one dollar may have changed hands a hundred times!  If that happens, we say the velocity is 100.

But if I wait a month to spend it, and the next person waits a month, then that dollar has a velocity of 12.  See?

Here’s the bad news.  Today’s money velocity is between one and two.  And the overall velocity is going down.

What does this mean?

It means that people are making their money stickier.  It means that we hold onto it longer.  And it means that whatever money our federal reserve puts into circulation, it ends up being less effective.

Sticky money.  Not a rock star, but something sitting in your pocket.

It’s something we measure, and something we can learn from.  Stay tuned!

 

Political Wars

What’s a “political” war?  Is it different from a “military” war?

Very different.  Let’s start with today’s war.

It’s against the new evil in town; the Daesh.  Formerly known as ISIS, ISIL, IS, and a few other names.

The new name is Daesh.  It’s an attempt to get all these names straight.  It our way of refusing to let the bad guys set our agenda.  It also respects innocent and good-hearted muslims.  It’s also a great way to “stick it” to those evil-doing Daeshers.

So, after the Paris attacks of 13 November, 2015, I started looking more closely at the doing of these devils.  Not only what they were doing, but what we were doing to them.

Turns out that they have a sophisticated organization going on.  Very complex, highly disciplined.  The only way to have that kind of organization so early in the game is if there was a lot of money available in the beginning.

A lot of money.

They get much of their income from robbing banks, stealing from innocents, and working the oil wells and refineries that they have taken over.  But they didn’t always have these sources, especially in the very beginning.

So where did the money come from initially?  Someone had to bankroll this outfit.  Who?  This is suspicion number one.

Suspicion number two starts with a report from the US Government.  They held a press conference stating that they were having a problem disabling Daesh oil wells and oil refineries.

Their solution?  Start bombing the trucks transporting oil products.

Really?  Can this be something the government expects us to believe?

We have bombs that can level cities.

We have missiles that can find a closet in a specific room for any address in the world.

And the US Government can’t disable a refinery?  What’s really going on?

That’s suspicion number two.

There’s something going on, something having to do with lots and lots of money, and probably connected to those oil fields and refineries.

Without getting all conspiracy crazy, there is one conclusion that appears inescapable: This is a politically run war.

Yes, politicians are calling the shots.  That’s what makes a political war, well, political.  A military war is run by professional military men.

In a political war, political interests, such as oil companies, are helping guide military policy.

I can hear their argument now.  “Take out the oil refinery?  Can’t do that, because someday my company will use it again.  Think of all the money that will cost to rebuild!”

Instead, our political leaders tell our soldiers to fight Daesh with kid gloves instead of teaching them the meaning of real war.

Real war?  The US hasn’t fought a real war since WWII.

To their credit, President George Herbert Walker Bush and General Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. executed one of the best “wars” in modern US memory.  In the “First Gulf War” of 1992, they quickly and successfully repelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

 

However, compared to WWII, it’s a drop in the bucket.

WWII was our last true military war.  Korea, Vietnam, and the ongoing “Gulf War Two” are all being commanded by politicians.  These are the last people on Earth who should be in charge of making quick life and death battle decisions.

Politicians are trained to listen to all interested parties, drag their feet, and only then make decisions by consensus that please as many important people as possible.

Our fight, our war, against Daesh and terrorism in general is not a military war, but a political war.  Given the fact that there is “dark money” in the background, and that dubious excuses are being given by the US Government as to their battle success, the conclusion seems inescapable.

This is a political war.

And with history as our teacher, there can only be one outcome.

Tusok

 

Fashion Fighter

I hate shopping.  Just do.  I don’t shop, I hunt.

I need this thing.  This store should have it.  Enter.  Target acquired.  Purchase made.  Escape!

Sometimes shopping takes more time than I’d like.  So I try to have fun along the way.

One of these ways is fighting the fashion treadmill.

But first: What the heck is fashion?

It’s culture.  It helps define ourselves within our tribe, our generation, our clique.

If my peers and role models are wearing sweaters with yellow tassels, then I’m going to have to wear yellow tassels.

If the fashion models in Paris are all wearing pink leather boots, I’m going to do my best to be the first one on my street with pink leather boots.  No matter what.

All the boots and sweaters that I bought last year are out of style.  Throw them out!

I’d rather move than show my buddies that I’m out of style.  I’d rather die than show my friends I’m out of step with fashion.

These are the thoughts of today’s typical young woman.

How can I justify such a sexist statement?

By showing you some rock-hard data.  For instance, how many billions of dollars are spent each year advertising “style” directly to young women?

A lot.

How many chain stores, fashion brands and accessory items exist specifically catering to women, young women?  How often do these stores adjust their inventory so that they remain in sync with the latest fashion trends?

A lot.  And at least 4 times a year.

Which brings me back to the whole purpose of this story.  I hate shopping!

One of the things I do to amuse myself during the agony of shopping is doing my best to fight the fashion treadmill, in any way.  For instance…

I was out shopping for gloves today, and overheard a father-son team bantering about how nice a certain charcoal-gray hat looked.  The father was trying it on.

As fashion police, his wife chimed in with…

“No one would ever wear that to work.”

“I would,” I say to myself, still busy looking at gloves.

Her husband responds.  “I would.  It’s comfortable and looks good.”

“It doesn’t fit the style of your overcoat,” she says.

I’m thinking, “But it will keep him warm and dry and looks pretty good.”

I move closer to the group as potential backup for the embattled male ego.

The wife delivers a second punch.  “No one really wears those things,” she says.

My opening!

“I do.” I chime in quietly, uninvited, and acting demure.  I’m looking at the other hats.

She lets me into the conversation!

“You do?” she says, giving me a polite smile.  I can see that I can’t push too much – there are daggers buried in those looks!

The husband looks genuinely pleased to see me come to his aide.  He is fondling the hat.

“Sure!” I repeat to her, though not too eagerly so that she sees through my ploy.  I continue.

“I have two stetsons very similar to this.  One brown and one black.”

“And you wear these to the office?”

“Most certainly.”

I smile and retreat.  I’ve given him all the help I can safely give without getting either of us in deep trouble.

I find my gloves and get out.

Ah, another male ego supported in the wilds of nature.  And one small push against the evils of the fashion treadmill.

I feel satisfied!