Category Archives: Economics

The Back-Packers Guide to the Apocalypse (Part 2)

As we discovered in Part 1, the threat of the Apocalypse is not bearing down upon us at this very minute as the charlatans and commercial thumpers would have us believe. We are actually in pretty good shape as far as those things go. I stated in my earlier post the only realistic potential apocalypse scenarios are an asteroid/meteorite impact,  a super volcano or a pandemic/epidemic. The first two are really rare and we would most likely have time to prepare and adjust for the events. The pandemic/epidemic is the one to keep your eye on. When that comes it will be swift and severe, and because we are a globally traveling society, it will spread very quickly. But remember, if you are not exposed to the threat, it will not harm you.

In any survival situation, you can use Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as a rudimentary guide. Maslow used a pyramid to illustrate this concept with Physiological Needs as the largest and most relevant, encompassing the base. Next up the scale was Safety Needs followed by Love/Belonging Needs. There are two more needs at the top of the pyramid, Esteem and Self-actualization, but they are more along the lines of “feel-good-about-yourself” than actual immediate survival. Basically, you must satisfy your Physiological Needs (breathable air, food, water) before you can move up to your Safety Needs (shelter and defense). Both of these needs must  be satisfied before you can satisfy Love/Belonging (a mate and a community). It makes a lot of sense in that if you’re starving to death you’re first priority is sustenance of the body instead of finding a shelter, and then a mate or community to join. When you secure food and water, your focus then turns to adequate shelter. When both of these needs are met, you’ll look for companionship, and so forth and so on up the pyramid. Maslow’s Hierarchy kind of puts the situation in an initial primal perspective for your apocalypse survival.

Now most of the commercial entities who talk about dooms day survival are adamant about hoarding gold, silver and currency. Most likely because they are selling that product. That’s all fine and wonderful if you want to swap your gold bars and all your cash for a can of tomato soup to feed your family when you’re desperate. If economies crumble and we are reduced to a barter society, people will want to trade for the essentials of life not the luxuries. Gold, silver and currency is fine for a really short term event where society is relatively intact; but for a long term disaster where the economy has shattered, it will be a burden instead of a viable tool to secure any kind of supplies. And fully expect to get shafted in any trade using gold, silver or currency for an essential. If you’re in a daily struggle to secure food and water, then fish hooks or ammunition or vegetable seeds will be vastly more valuable to you as a trade item than a $100 bill or bag of silver coins. If I have something you need, I will trade you for something I need. This is where you must get out of the current worldwide economical mindset and get barter primal like the stone age. That’s the situation that will exist.

Next big issue is to shelter in place. You might have to forage for food and water, but at your home you have most of the weapons, tools, clothing and other essentials you will need for a decent attempt at daily survival. You can set up a perimeter and defend it, if needed. You may not have power or running water but it will be a satisfactory shelter regardless. Don’t cram your family, and whatever else you can, into the car and take off down the highway seeking a new horizon unless it is unavoidably necessary to escape a deadly situation. There will be total chaos and anarchy on the roads and highways, with desperate people doing despicable things. When a man is watching his wife and kids beginning to starve, he WILL rationalize the behavior and do whatever he needs to feed them. Harming or killing you and yours will not affect him in the least. It will be sad but true. That is the nature of humans. So if at all possible, be inconspicuous make your stand at home.

Now, what you store up against the apocalyptic event for survival is basically up to you; whatever your personal needs will be and the environment you will live in until the crisis has ended. The basics for everyone will be food, water, special medicines needed, shelter and weapons for defense. Maslow’s Hierarchy again. It’s not brain surgery so put a little thought into it and start putting smart things away if you deem necessary. Depending on the event, you may need to learn some canning/preserving skills or first aid or farming skills; or at least buy some books to have on hand outlining those skills if you need them.

The key to the whole issue is to be aware of the threats and know what options are available if they occur. To be perfectly frank, a dooms day event will most likely never occur in your lifetime so don’t be foolish and sta

rt spending frivolously for naught. There is a lot of commercial companies that thrive on the foolish who they can terrify into buying their products. Don’t get caught up in that circus. Be mindful of the news media stories, know where you can procure threat appropriate items and have a general plan. You will endure.

Personal common sense has saved more lives than all the collective doctors, clerics and academics who ever lived.

Touché.

The Back-Packers Guide to the Apocalypse (Part 1)

Apocalypse! The very word sends shudders up some peoples spines making them manic and paranoid; running around like Chicken Little personified screaming the sky is falling and getting ready to hide under the proverbial bed. Well, in the parable an acorn simply fell on his head. But then most recently, the end of the world scenario has been utmost on some Chicken Little minds, especially when prophetic events like the ending of the Mayan calendar, or the incredibly cryptic prophecies of loonies like Nostradamus are touted and seemingly validated by media eccentrics who believe such nonsense, and want you to believe it as well to sell their books or get you to buy elaborate doomsday supplies.  Our old friend money has popped his head up again. But let’s now be realistic and look at the issue from the perspective of someone with no commercial agenda and a little common sense.

First, what does Apocalypse actually mean. The English word comes from the Greek word apokálypsis, meaning “uncovering”; being translated literally as “a disclosure of knowledge”.  What? That doesn’t mean the end of the world? Where does the doom of the world come from? Well, it takes on that meaning inadvertently from the Book of Revelation in the Bible, in the context of meaning the return of Jesus Christ, the destruction of Satan and his forces and the beginning HIS one thousand year reign of Peace. See the English Bible was translated from the Greek translation. So then it becomes a religious disclosure of knowledge proclaiming the end of the former world as we know it. Not a bad thing if you’re a Christian. A very bad thing if you’re not. Research the Book of Revelation for more information on it. This event is a matter of Faith and when/if it happens a whole new set of rules apply.

So now let us look at the physical ways this planet can actually be scientifically injured thereby posing a realistic threat to mankind. Note I didn’t say destruction of the planet. There is no probable, practical mechanism or significant threat that can seriously destroy the planet itself at this time. But the surface can be rendered uninhabitable, or the life forms can be eradicated. And also distinguish between “probable” and “possible”. Almost anything can be possible, just not always probable. These are two completely different concepts when you deal with events. It is technically possible that a coconut wielding maniac hippie shark with an eye patch will jump up behind you in the rain on the toilet and beat you senseless while singing Ave Maria…but not realistically probable.

The most noteworthy ways of our collective destruction are:

Geomagnetic Reversal: This is a change in a planet’s magnetic field such that the positions of magnetic north and magnetic south are interchanged completely, or to varying degrees. On average this happens every 450,000 years or so, and most reversals are estimated to take between 1,000 and 10,000 years. The latest one occurred about 780,000 years ago.  A brief complete reversal, occurred only 41,000 years ago during the last ice age. Did the world end. No. Were there mass extinctions? Possibly. No one really knows for sure but the evidence indicates that this is not an event that will crumble the planet and eradicate all life. It may be a spooky thing to happen but we would continue to survive. This is a possible but not likely event so don’t buy a new compass. Possible but not probable as a civilization eradicator!

Gamma Ray Burst: This is a flash of Gamma Rays associated with extremely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. Bursts can last from ten milliseconds to several hours and are believed to consist of a narrow beam of intense radiation released during a supernova or hypernova as a rapidly rotating, high-mass star collapses blah, blah, bah. The sources of most Gamma Ray Bursts are billions of light years away from Earth and are extremely rare. In fact, all observed Gamma Ray Bursts have originated from outside our galaxy. It is only a theory that IF a Gamma ray burst in the Milky Way, and IF it was pointing directly towards the Earth, it MIGHT cause a  mass extinction event. That’s a lot of ifs and maybes to take a Gamma Ray Burst seriously especially since they are not even in our own galaxy. Possible but not even probable! I’ll throw the bullshit flag on this one as no threat whatsoever.

Black Hole: This is a theoretical region of spacetime exhibiting such strong gravitational effects that nothing, including particles and  light,  can escape from inside it. It would literally shred our planet to pieces and absorb it into the void. The nearest black hole to Earth is believed to be at the center of our galaxy. So it’s not nearby, and there is not a traveling hobo black hole that has been identified coming through our neighborhood, so this phenomenon is virtually non-threatening at all. Possible but not probable! Another bullshit flag.

Biotech disaster: Biological technology is another way of saying genetically modified. If you buy non-organic groceries at the supermarket, you are most likely buying meat and vegetables that have been genetically modified to look better, taste better, last longer; and be insect and weather resistant. We have even seen cloning of sheep in our lifetime. Genetic modification and the biological science’s are researching more ways of enhancing and changing genetic structure’s of organisms at an alarming rate. But when you tamper with Nature’s genetic engineering, you are asking for trouble. This is an area where the technology can get away from the architects very easily if they are not fanatically diligent. When I begin seeing cattle with claws and fangs, as well as a nasty carnivorous appetites, I’ll worry about this one. We could technically engineer our own destruction, but on a planetary scale it’s not realistically feasible. This one is possible and probable if due care and responsibility is ignored! In extraordinary circumstances, this event might cause problems for, or irritate the human race, but not destroy the physical planet.

Climate Change: We may be seeing this event unfolding at this very  minute. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been pumping carbon dioxide and other pollutants into our air and water supply to the point the planet is beginning to change. This is a serious threat to our current way of existence but not to our species survival. At the very worse, we may have to adjust to an ice age existence but realistically we would continue to survive as a specie although populations would plummet like ice cubes in a tumbler. The planet itself would endure fine albeit in a different state. Possible and most likely probable if changes are not initiated immediately to correct the pending imbalances!

Super Volcano: This one is one of the more serious threat’s today. Super volcanoes do exist worldwide and there is historical evidence of their periodic eruptions. Most of our planet is molten rock and we live on our planet’s shallow and fragile crust which is governed by plate tectonics.  Where the plates meet, there will be always be seismic activity. There are volcano’s all along these plates but the few super volcanoes are extraordinarily dangerous to our species. Sadly, they are inevitable. Scientists are monitoring them constantly and are getting consistently better at predicting eruptions. Therefore, we can at least get away from the blast range of an eruption and evacuate ahead of a pyroclastic flow if warned in time. But it’s the ejection of billions of tons of matter into the atmosphere that’s the issue. A super volcano could throw enough ejecta into the air to cover the Earth with a blanket of dust, block out the Sun’s rays and thrust us into a volcanic winter for an indeterminate period of time. This is the true end time scenario as used in movies for drama. Crops and all vegetation would eventually fail, animals would die, starvation would soon begin on a massive scale, water supplies would be non-potable, world and communal societies would devolve into chaos, economies would crumble, and we would be thrust into a literal dark age existence again bartering for our needs, or taking them by force of arms. We would have to survive on stored rations until the overcast dissipated and the land could support plants again. Mankind would most likely survive as a species, but in the interim, it would be the most harsh, cruel and base existence for the few survivors. Civilization, as we know it today, would never exist again. They are rare but this one is very possible and eventually probable at some point.

Asteroid/Meteorite Strike: Scientists tell us this is another of those events which is a matter of WHEN not IF it’s going to happen. The most recent serious threat was probably the Tunguska Event in 1908. Our planet and Moon are pockmarked reminders that asteroid and meteor strikes have rained down on this planet throughout it’s existence. The destructive power of this event depends on the size and the speed of the object that collides with the Earth. But an asteroid roughly 5 miles in diameter travelling at a hypersonic speed will destroy all living things on the planet…that’s the feared Planet Killer. No need to hoard food or water, no need to crawl in a hole, no chance of survival unless you leave the planet. But even then there’s no place to go. Scientists and world governments know of this threat and are making minute strides to address it when it does occur; but any realistic plan to deal with it is still on the drawing boards at this stage. At least the scientific observers have identified several larger near Earth objects and are tracking them, so we can have advanced warning (if the officials decide to tell us). The smaller ones are to numerous to track. Now, some of these smaller impacts we can survive, once again, depending on the size. We could have something like the volcanic winter mentioned earlier except this is called an impact winter. Same results, just a different name for the cause. This threat is very possible and eventually probable at some point.

Artificial Intelligence/Nano Technology: This event is more theoretical than practical at this point in our technological development. Until we reach “technological singularity” and our thinking machines and computers become smarter than our programming and failsafe measures, we have no serious threat from AI to destroy our human civilization. Also Nano-technology is predicted for the future but the technology is just not upon us yet. Supposedly these microscopic robots can turn rogue and reduce all matter on the planet’s surface to gray goo. Sounds more science fiction than science. This is another instance to throw the bullshit flag and not worry about something that doesn’t exist, except in the mind of a pot smoking Hollywood screenplay writer. Like a ghost in the machinery, when I see it I’ll believe it possible and take the threat more seriously. No matter the outcome, the planet will survive without any problem. It’s the indentured servant of humanity vs. the master machine scenario that’s the issue. Possible and maybe probable…just not anytime soon.

Pandemic/Biological Warfare: This one is another of the more seriously probable events. Nature has a way of culling an animal population to get it to appropriate, balanced numbers that can survive and flourish in it’s environment. When the population get’s too large she’ll starve it back to the proper balance or introduce disease. Epidemics and Pandemics are nothing new to our history and is Nature’s way of culling our human herd. Almost everybody has heard of the bubonic plagues of medieval Europe, killing almost 25% of the population. Basically one in every four people died of the disease. And it’s still around. Even recently, in 1918, the Spanish Influenza killed 100 million people worldwide. And I am sure there are others throughout history. In our times, we have had the luxury of antibiotics to stave off infections and other nasty’s, keeping us out of the grip of pandemics. But Nature has ways of counteracting our cleverness. Scientist’s are now seeing a rise in antibiotic resistant strains of viruses and bacteria which could leave our medicines and treatments useless to combat the threat. Also Nature has a way of causing viruses and bacteria to mutate allowing them to change their way of attacking us, as well as being shielded from the medicines. So this event is very possible and eventually probable at some point in our future. Is it a planet destroyer? No. Planet will be just fine. Is it a mankind destroyer? Possibly. But not an extinction event for the species. And there is no such thing, or ever will be such a thing as a Zombie Apocalypse. That’s just being stupid. There has never been a virus or bacteria that has caused humans to crave eating brains of another human. Pot smoking Hollywood screenwriters trying to make a buck again. To me personally, the possibility of a pandemic or epidemic is the most serious threat of them all because we have seen it too may times before, and Nature is diligently working against us to whittle our numbers down.

Nuclear Holocaust: This threat has been around since World War II. Yes, there are enough warheads to throw the planet into a nuclear winter, like a volcanic or impact winter, but it would take them all exploding during a single series of events to do it. Only two countries have the vast majority of the world’s stockpiles. And the possibility of that happening has been dwindling since the Cold War. Could it happen? Sure. Why hasn’t it happened in the last 70 years then? Because leaders and politicians know humanity will not stand for it. Their perceived use has become so caustic, that any leader that uses just one will surpass Hitler as the most despised and reviled man in history. And the country he represents will be ostracized from the human community. Even if a terrorist cell used one, it would cause only localized destruction not a worldwide event. They have become weapons of bluff and bluster with little chance of realistic use any more.  If that were not so, they would have been used somewhere already by someone. And remember, for a world destructive event, it will take nearly all of the warheads being utilized to catapult us into a nuclear winter. The U.S. and Russia would pound each other with conventional weapons before they would revert to nuclear weapons. And the winning power would never push the loser to the point of all out launch. Mutually assured destruction theory. This event is possible of course but I personally don’t think it’s really probable anymore.

Alien Invasion: I’m not even going to give this any credence or thought. When intelligent, combative, war-mongering, resource stealing life forms from another planet’s civilization appear, we’ll give this consideration. We haven’t even found microbes on other planetary bodies so don’t bother looking for destructive battle fleets from other worlds. Oh, by the way, if you see a UFO flying around I’ll bet you the farm it has a government contract funding it.

Massive Solar Flare: This is another possible but not probable event. A solar flare of a magnitude large enough to strip the Earth of it’s atmosphere is so rare as to be not worth the calculation.

So there you have the choices. Most of them are not even probable events. However, pandemics, super volcanoes and asteroid/meteor strikes are viable possibilities and we should take those threats very, very seriously. Are they common? No, just the opposite. Super volcanoes and asteroid impacts are rare events but when they can happen, the results can be catastrophic. Pandemics and epidemics on the other hand are not as rare and we need to prepare for the next one very sensibly. So the next time you hear one of the modern commercial prophets of doom saying the end could be near at any minute and you need to buy their survival products right now or soon you’ll be eating your grand babies, naked and in the dark; you can least look down your nose at them in righteous condemnation and say with confidence: “You’re an idiot!”

Touché.

So You’re FOOLISH Enough to Want to be Rich and Famous?

For those of us who are not fabulously wealthy or world renowned, we all sometimes have little secret fantasies and longings of what it would actually be like to not have any worries about paying the bills on time or getting preferential treatment when we go out in society or having simple folks shout out our names in adulation every time we’re in public. We would reside in huge mansions, take extended holidays on mega-yachts, fly by helicopter to the grocery store and generally be pampered constantly with luxuries and opulence. Our fame would have us recognized by all, adoringly worshiped as modern legends as we step out into the world everyday to do our exceptional tasks and engagements. But are we REALLY stupid and foolish enough to want to be rich and famous? Lets explore that little avenue. Say you’re granted your wish and win the lottery of one billion dollars, and your recording of your song just hit the pinnacle of being number one for the last two years, and you just won the Oscar for being the best actor of all time. You are now officially rich and famous.

Let’s look at our being mega-wealthy first. You now buy a huge mansion in an exclusive neighborhood where you can put all your “stuff” and socialize with the other celebrities and mega-wealthy. You know, all the cool things you gathered, or were given as  presents, and collected when you were just plain old poor folk. Now, none of that will fit the décor of you’re new lifestyle. All the crayon drawings proudly done by your kids; the horribly ugly vase grandma saved her pension money to buy for you on your wedding day; the sofa you have sat on for the past ten years with your family as they grew up; your bed that you scrimped and saved for, and have spent years sleeping in and expressing love; the non-descriptive car that has never left you stranded anywhere and you meticulously washed every weekend. All that must go now, or be hidden away out of view. So you now get to buy all new stuff that will conform to your new house and lifestyle. Big house equals a lot of furniture and art shopping, and other critical decisions. But all must be tasteful and trendy. You can have anything you want at this juncture, not just what you could formerly afford. Now the list of possibilities is endless therefore the decisions suddenly become more and more demanding. And you have rooms and rooms and rooms to fill. And then, when the vendors know you’re a mega-wealthy type, the normal prices will suddenly jump sky-high because they know you can afford it. So now you can’t even enjoy shopping anymore and will have to have a staff member do it for you, to avoid getting shafted just because your rich and famous.

Now we have to hire the staff to run our new massive household. We are wealthy now so we don’t cook, clean or drive ourselves any more. That would be tacky and horrid because the neighbors and media would be scandalized. We have an image to maintain so we’re not laughed at for being rubes. Maids, cooks, chauffer’s, personal secretaries and…security guards. Yep! Now that we’re rich and famous, we have concerns for our loved ones health, safety and security. If you have lots of money, some criminal body with foul motives will surely want it. So our family must now be under 24 hour watch to avoid kidnapping, or theft, or assault, or attack. You’re rich and famous now, so some people will despise you just because you’re successful; or worse yet, somebody will become so enamored with you they harass you all the time with forlorn love and affection…the dreaded stalker. Your privacy suddenly is paramount. Your movements, your family movements, your private habits; all are subjects of interest to somebody so your house and personal staff have to be vetted and investigated properly. They have to be highly paid to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, obedient, friendly, kind, courteous and willing not to steal from you or divulge your toilet habits to the media for money. Every day, every minute, every move, every decision, every comment you make is now critical to someone’s welfare. And the whole operation is an endless, ravenous money pit.

Your fame is wonderful, but you can no longer go anywhere without being mobbed. You are always on display now and every movement or word you speak must be perfectly in accord with your image. No more public movie theater trips, no drama free meals at restaurants, no more trips to simply get a quiet coffee at Starbucks. Somebody is always thrusting an autograph book in your hands or a cell phone in your face for a Selfie. People want you to hold their child or dog, or put your arm around Granny, for a photo. They don’t realize they are the hundredth person today who has asked you for the same thing. If you are with your kids, they do not have all of your attention and they are constantly bombarded simply being with you. Their quiet trips are always ruined having to share you with the world all the time, when all they want is some time with you alone to bond and share what they’ve done for your approval.

You have strived hard to get there but now some people are jealous of all your adulation. That is the nature of humans. Also you have to be constantly aware that there is a fine line between fame and infamy. One can morph into the other very easily so you’re always walking on eggshells.  The media is constantly pressing your friends and family and staff for scoops of information about you. The more demeaning the better. The media is not interested in you personally, they are interested in using you to sell their articles or magazines. Yes, you are rich and famous, but to them you are still just a piece of meat to display and exploit so they can be rich and famous too. Photographers and journalists and writers and bloggers and critics and other leeches are tuned into every aspect of your existence now. When you step out in your yard to play a game with your kids, paparazzi is skulking out side the gates in the bushes with a camera and telescopic lenses trying to catch you in a compromising pose or embarrassing situation. Everything you wear, everything your family wears, everything you drink, smoke, eat or breathe is captured on film, and plastered on the websites and papers and magazines, with any headline they want to attach to it. If you fight back and attack them for it, they will retaliate and began a smear campaign against you, and yours. You are now their dancing bear, and you will do it to their tunes.

If you are famous but poor, the rules change a little but not much. If you are rich but not famous, the rules change a little but not much. Because both go hand in hand like a recurring benign cancer. Eventually and casually merging. You must live with it and care for it, or it will become malignant and then eat you and your loved one’s alive. If you are poor and become rich, then lose it, you will revert to the person you were before with little damage hopefully. But if you’re rich, then lose it all to become poor; it’s an adjustment most of those people can’t abide, and they dwindle into chaos. Conversely, fame is a like drug and can become highly addictive no matter who you are. You get it, and will always want more until it becomes as overbearing as any addiction. Then when you lose it, you become pitiful and pathetic striving to get it back again. Oscar Wilde was once quoted ”There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” He should have craved privacy because he was eventually imprisoned for homosexuality when it was illegal in England, and then died young and destitute.

So, the next time you see  a photo of, or listen to a recording of your most revered, rich and famous celebrity, you may want to feel some empathy for them. They are truly walking a desolate and troubled path. And I truly wish them well on it…for as long as it lasts.

But always be very careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And there is no such thing as an easy life.

Touché.

The New Democratic Revolution

We may be on the verge of another long over-due American Revolution, and as unbelievable as it may seem it will possibly emerge from the Democratic Party.  Poor little ole Bernie Sanders, who nobody took seriously a few months ago, is sizzling hot and cooking with gravy after the Iowa and New Hampshire delegate elections. Hillary Clinton came out for this election year with all the confidence of a prize fighter who has already bought and paid for the fight. At least that’s what her political backers thought, who are funding her candidacy. But now they have grown increasingly concerned they may be throwing their influential money away on a bad bet.  All the favors and power they would have bought is slipping right through their nasty, grimy fingers. Hillary barely squeaked out a marginal victory in Iowa and got totally trashed in New Hampshire because the citizens are hearing a whole new message. And the people like what they hear from Bernie.

Let’s get honest. Hillary Clinton is nothing but a political hack of the first order. If cut, she will bleed greed, dishonesty and corruption like the rest of the Beltway Gang. She has tasted power through her questionable husband’s rise to prominence, and his Presidency. She may have been only the First Lady but you know she was a behind-the-scenes pillow talk player. She dropped out of the 2008 bid for the Presidency, at the party’s urging, to let Barak Obama become the first black and first pseudo-Muslim President, making the party look all progressive and cool. Now she believes it’s her turn to become the big contestant on “The Price is Right”. If you want another crooked William Jefferson Clintonesque term in office then she’s your huckleberry. She is banking on women voting for her because she is a woman and would be the first woman President. She is banking on the Hispanic vote because they will supposedly think she will champion immigration causes. She is banking on the black vote because they traditionally vote the Democratic ticket. She was not banking on the premise that voters, no matter what their gender or ethnicity, are not stupid, are seriously listening to what the candidates are saying and  do not want another President in office failing to fulfill empty promises while lining the pockets of the 1%.

Then along came Bernard Sanders from Vermont. A maverick horse from out of nowhere politically. He is a card carrying Democratic Socialist in his political platform, which is very appealing to a society that see’s the country being run by a monetary elite. Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. They believe, to achieve a more just society, many structures of the government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives. If you are an advocate of higher wages, government supported health care and subsidized education, then he’s your man.

See, if you want an economy to grow and prosper, then you must inject more money into the system. We are a consumer based economy. You pay people higher wages, they will spend more, then the economy flourishes grows faster and stronger. It’s like comparing a plant with no fertilizer next to a plant with fertilizer. But the 1% have hoarded all the manure and will not spread it around, thereby becoming a controlling financial elite while the country dies on the vine.

If you want the best health care now, you have to pay exorbitant costs to a system that overtly price gouges their patients. Health care in the United States is a system that is totally out of control in what it charges for care. You must pay ridiculous premium costs for health insurance to cover any kind of illness, and absurd prices for medications touted by doctors who are paid off by the pharmaceutical companies. It is a travesty of humanity for a profession that prides itself on the Hippocratic Oath to do this.  Any one of us is just a serious illness away from bankruptcy.

An American education should be  a right not a privilege. Right now, there is a potential Einstein or Da Vinci or Mozart in our country somewhere, toiling away at a menial job because they couldn’t afford the luxury of going to a university and fulfilling their complete potential. Foreign students are welcomed with open arms as long as they pay the fees. And they surely will. We are educating the world while leaving our own students mired up to their armpits in debt. Then universities continue to raise tuitions and text book prices so that only a select few can afford an education. And to add insult to injury, the government blindly pumps money into these universities through grants and subsidies allowing this perversion to continue unabated, so a new football stadium can be built and the alumni can sit their fat fannies on a comfortable bleacher seat.

All of these issues have gone on so long, and so blatantly, that the American public has become desensitized to it and regards it as the norm. But it’s not the norm and we, as citizens, have the opportunity to stand up and say “No more, you Assholes!”  We have been kicked and punched and ignored enough, and my measly vote may not mean much by itself, but when I combine it with a million others, it WILL lead to another American Revolution! Thomas Jefferson once wrote ” I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

Well, hopefully there’s a storm brewing, and the winds of change are blowing, and the rain of indignation for the current state is getting ready for a deluge to wash away the manure of the past, re-fertilizing the future with a plant that’s strong and healthy, and the insects that have controlled it for so long will finally die away. And maybe, hopefully, there will be that lone, ignored political outsider, not owned by the 1%, with extravagant thoughts for a better way of life for the American people, who will enter the Presidency and make the electorate powerful again with what the people demand as being the norm. And I hope Congress takes notice as well to the current climate. They were hired by the people; they can be fired by the people

I am really feeling the Bern…so let the fire rage on!

Touché.

 

 

The Weird, Weird World of “Sports”

It’s time for the Superbowl again! A simple American football game. Every year around this time we get overwhelmed with news articles, and advertisements and pre-game hype about players and coaches and pre-game strategies and recipes for Superbowl parties. We have beer commercials and car commercials and cell phone commercials and pizza commercials and condom commercials plastered all over our televisions in anticipation of the big game day.

We all get caught up in peer pressured tribal rituals of appearing to care about teams that really mean nothing to us, and get to go to loud alcohol fueled house parties we would rather not attend. Or worse yet, going to a “sports” bar where patrons try to out scream every other patron while over-paying for food and drinks to get the privilege to participate. We don expensive garish clothing showing our support to this team or that, just be a part of the group and fit in.  It’s a game generated media frenzy of fluff to get us to buy stuff in the end. A commercial feeding frenzy generated for our money. And it’s simply a game. Author Ken Purdy once used a quote attributed to Earnest Hemingway “…that of all sports, only bullfighting and mountain climbing and motor racing really try a man, that all the rest are mere recreations, games that children can play.” That should be a humbling thought for all the high-dollar superstars, and the goobers that pay their salaries.

So let’s get down to the basics. What is American football? Eleven players on one team try to move an elongated ball 100 yards down a rectangular field in various ways, while eleven opposing players try to stop them. Soccer (world football) is pretty much the same concept. Hockey moves this same conception to ice, and basketball moves it to throwing a ball into a basket at the end of a court.  In the final analysis, the whole premise  is moving an object from one end of a rectangular playing surface to another…then the players get to jump around, hoot, holler and do silly dances. Pretty mundane for an activity that garners so much attention. Granted, Baseball is somewhat different but in the end it involves a ball and running and throwing while players navigate around a square in a field. Boxing is not a game or a sport, it’s just a fight.

And all these players receive exorbitant salaries to play this game, not a sport, a game. A game children can play remember? Grown men, literally in costume, running around in a field chasing a ball. If it wasn’t so pathetic it would be comical. I am sure future historians will be in stitches laughing at us. And in a couple of hours, like a flash, the game is over and then resigned to a rarely researched history, and some statistical compilation logs somewhere stored for future game enthusiasts. Ten years from now, no one will even remember who won it unless they go look it up. Once again, a humbling thought for the superstars and goobers.

But then I put it all back into perspective.

I am reminded as I walk through the streets sometimes, I’ll see graffiti art that is absolutely phenomenal. Or a breath-taking canvas that hangs on a wall. Some artist took some paints and made something beautiful purely from talent and imagination. I’ll listen to musicians who take instruments made from pieces of strings and wood, making beautiful musical sounds from nothing but scribbles on paper, and soul. I’ll read books from writers that take me on fantastic journeys, engaging with fascinating characters and wonderful plot lines. I’ll read about scientists that do unbelievable mathematical calculations that are beyond comprehension opening up the stars; or spend weeks in the field studying animals to understand their behavior so we can understand ourselves; or dig up ancient sites finding out how our ancestors brought us to the civilizations we live in today and how we can improve them. I’ll envy the engineers that built the infrastructure of our buildings, and bridges and highways, and every other mechanical device we take for granted everyday. I’ll applaud teachers in elementary and middle schools who take young minds and teach them to read, instilling enough interest in them about a subject that they will dedicate their lives to it, seeking further knowledge and advancement of society. I’ll respect and pay homage to the soldiers who fought in behalf of our country, who you need to thank everyday if you can read freely at all…especially in English. And the millions of other people who do the jobs that our society needs just to function every day. Why are none of these people paid enormous salaries for the jobs they do? They get no recognition or reward but without them the world would be awfully bland and ignorant, and not one of us would be watching a Superbowl game.

So during this Superbowl game while the game stops on the field for a commercial break to sell some useless product to us and nothing of interest is happening, try thinking of the real superstars in our society who aren’t paid huge sums of money; that struggle everyday to make ends meet so they can raise their families on a pittance for no recognition. The people who give the full measure of devotion to their disciplines and professions to make life better for us all. And not the costumed children who are simply playing a forgettable game in a field.

Another quote comes to mind: “Who’s the more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him”.

Touché.

 

The Stock Market Vs. Roulette Wheel

I don’t know diddly-squat about the stock market. I have never had enough extra money to seriously invest in anything except everyday necessities. Plus I find it repulsive to pay exorbitant fees to someone else in a brokerage firm to invest my money for me. If I can’t understand it, do it myself and then take responsibility for it myself then I am not going to trust someone else to do it for me.  And reading any article or treatise about investing and market disclosures, is cloaked in econo-babble and percentage-ese that only broker linguists and money-launderers can understand. To me, it’s safer going to the Roulette Table in Las Vegas and paying somebody a percentage to gamble my money away.

But when I read the news and see statements like “the first eight days of 2016 was the Dow Jones worst start to the year in history”, I become seriously worried. The stock market of recent times doesn’t have the most reliable track record to fall back on. In fact, the track record of the 20th Century has been chaotic and unreliable. It is splattered with a major depression and several brutal recessions.

Why should I be worried you ask? I have no money in the stock market. Yes, but my whole economic world revolves around what happens worldwide in stocks and trading. If the dollar drops in value then my spending ability drops with it, or goes away altogether. And that gets anyone’s intensive attention. And what if the bottom of the economy does drop out? Then I am involuntary thrust back into a barter society that existed during the Bronze Age, or even further.

The way I understand it, whole word economy is built upon a fragile house of cards. Money is basically a piece of paper that we receive, and trust others to believe, has some intrinsic value based on the backing of a standard such as gold or silver or other commodity. As long as you and I enter into a trade deal believing I am giving something in value, and you are receiving something of equal value, we have a deal. But if someone believes my piece of paper is worthless, then they are not going to accept it and I will have to do without it, or go to extremes to possess that item.

Now there is not enough gold, and silver, and other precious commodities on this planet to come anywhere near backing the currencies of the world’s economies, which is not very comforting. Which then gets you into the world of the petrodollar, the bitcoin and other schemes and devices which is even more confusing and unreliable to the layperson who doesn’t understand any kind of stockmockery, high finance or world economics. The value of money is simply an economic theory based upon our acceptance of it. And they realistically want us to invest in the stock markets because we have been indoctrinated since birth that paper currency is valuable, and is the only economic system that we have ever known.

Now China, the worlds second biggest economy, is on the verge of collapse and the price of oil, which propels the petrodollar, is dropping to historic lows. The house of cards is definitely on a shaky table today. And when one domino falls, they all fall.

Well Mr. Broker and Mr. Stock-seller and Mr. Businessman and Mr. Banker and Mr. Government Official, I’ll just keep my questionable paper money in my wallet. I know that regulations that were put in place in the United States after the Great Depression of 1929, to avoid another major depression, have been watered down or done away with entirely. I don’t have to listen to conspiracist propaganda to know that the great crash of 2008 was a direct result of that, and the band-aids and chewing gum you put on the hemorrhage to remedy that has had very little or no effect.

Winston Churchill once stated in a wartime speech “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”  I think this was prophetic. This statement is as much, or more relevant today in the economic communities, than it was then during the London Blitz, as the world markets fluctuate and spasm in possible death throes. And I don’t know if there is very much we can do about it at this junction.

I can tell you this. I will go to Vegas and bet on red or black,  odd or even, by myself, on the Roulette Wheel before I put my pennies in the current stock markets. I’ll get better odds and immediate loss or gain, instead of it slowly wasting away through broker fees, and daily dwindling values into oblivion.

If your going to gamble, do it right.

Touché.

 

 

 

The Consumer Electronics Show and Flea Market

The CES (Consumer Electronics Show) or (Crap Everybody-doesn’t- need Show) is going on this week in Las Vegas to provide a glimpse of all the gadgets, widgets and doohickeys that the sponsors are desperately hoping we’ll be buying for Christmas this year. Picking are looking very slim indeed unless your are a zillionaire and have everything else on the planet in your closets.  But let’s have a look anyway…

The FFZero1 concept car and the Volkswagon Budd-e concept microvan. I have written an entire blog on these must-have beauties already (see The Electric Car Reality dated 01/05/2016). Not going to waste anymore typing space, or time, on these pipe dreams.

Alpha 2, the world’s first affordable humanoid robot butler. Note the term affordable…$1300.00. This tiny 17 X 19 inch, voice-controlled droid is hyped as doing everything from turning on the lights, helping with housework, organizing your diary and reading to your children their bedtime stories. And due to it’s super modern construction it supposedly can move around like a human, allowing it to do things such as dance and teach yoga. OK, I have already pretty much mastered the skills of getting my fat butt off the sofa, and turning on and off the lights. How many of us realistically keep a dairy, and if I did I am surely not going to let an easily hackable, tottering flowerpot keep up with it. I really don’t want my children to have to pay for therapy down the road because I didn’t have time to read to them at bedtime and delegated it to said flowerpot. And what kind of housework can a creepy, stumpy, little flowerpot do. Too small to push a vacuum cleaner or wash the windows. The creators didn’t elaborate on that tidbit of information. Let’s be perfectly honest, 99% of us only do yoga in January of every year as a failed new year’s resolution, so you’re pretty much left with it dancing. I am sure that will justify the price. I can still buy a dancing dog at Wal-Mart for six bucks. Oh yeah, this bucket of bolts runs on Wi-Fi and has a battery that’s lasts a whole hour. When you get to Alpha Model 246, and it can cook, clean the toilet and push a lawn-mower, for more than a few minutes, then maybe you guys will have something to seriously consider buying.

 Samsung’s Family Hub Fridge: This hype says your refrigerator could become the most important appliance in your home, as opposed to being relegated to just keeping your food cold. This refrigerator will be able to help you do everything from message your family to “virtually” shop for food. No more need for inexpensive sticky notes now. The heart of the fridge is a 21.5 inch full HD LCD resolution screen located on the upper right exterior door. So it’s a TV now, and the screen allows you to use your phone to post calendars, pin photos, share kids’ works of art, and leave notes. I don’t put any of this crap on my fridge now. Can I watch The Road Warrior while I scramble my eggs? You had just better make sure you pay your phone bill or you’ll have a plain old refrigerator again with an expensive, blank TV screen in it. It has three cameras inside the fridge to capture an image every time the door closes. What? You can then access those images anytime using your smartphone and take a peek inside your fridge. Why? Even if you’re at the store and forget to check on what you need for dinner that night, the Samsung Smart Home app can take a look inside your fridge. What about the pantry? Are spices, beans and rice obsolete. By the way, I don’t keep toilet paper or mouthwash in my fridge either. The Family Hub fridge will be available this spring, but a price has yet to be announced, but I can bet it’s going to be brutal. And you had better get every warranty there is, as only a NASA engineer will be able to repair it.

The EHang 184 Megadrone. A major highlight this week at the CES was the unveiling of a giant quadcopter big enough to fit a passenger by the Chinese firm EHang. Uh oh, Chinese technology. The 184 is an all-electric vehicle has four arms with a total of eight propellers at the end. All-electric technology alarm bells and whistles going off again. The company says the 184 is autonomous, so all the passenger has to do is enter in their destination in the smartphone app, sit back, and let the drone take over. Back to paying the phone bill on time again. There’s no option to take control of the 184 remotely. What? The cockpit is empty, apart from a stand to place a smartphone or tablet and a cup holder. Hold it Skippy! EHang said the vehicle is primarily designed for traveling short-to-medium distances, around 10 miles, and will fly at around 60 miles per hour. “I think in all of us there is that little kid in all of us that says I want to fly,” said a spokes person. ‘I don’t want to get a pilot license after five or 10 hours of flying, I want to do it right away.” Yeah, but there’s an adult in all of US that’s says “I don’t want to fall out of the sky at 60 miles per hour within 10 miles of my house and be splattered all over the ground in a vehicle that’s electric, and with 8 propellers, and that I have no control over except through my cell phone.” And what about the FAA and their control of the skies. I think having a pilot’s license is going to be a big item on their agenda, especially if 100,000 enterprising 40 year old adolescents get ahold of the EHang 184 and start all flying around the skyscrapers of major cities. And let not forget legitimate aircraft who are busy dodging duck and geese just to stay aloft, as they carry unsuspecting passengers who don’t want to be approached by kami kazi cell phone controlled drones with a nut inside. Might want to look at this one again EHang! Science is good but the reality factor is loose.

And there are other devices available at the CES. A clever new countertop cocktail machine that allows drinks enthusiasts (nice way to say alcoholics) to create 300 different kinds of perfectly-mixed beverages using an app on their smartphone. There’s the smart phone dependence again. Or the GoSun Stove, that absorbs heat from the sun to reach temperatures of over 290°C (554°F). Its Ohio-based creators claim it can safely cook hot dogs, eight egg omelettes, frozen foods, fish fillets, muffins, stirfrys and even raw meat. Guess I don’t need a BBQ pit or oven anymore now that I can cook in the yard on sunny days. How about the Hairmax LaserBand 82. Designed by Pinin Farina, it uses 90-second treatments of red laser light at 655 nanometers to grow hair by increasing blood flow to the scalp and stimulating hair follicles. Yep, that’s a got-to-have item in the major market of vain, middle aged balding guys.

So if you happen to be going to Las Vegas this week and have some time to kill not gambling, going to shows, eating at great restaurants or getting married by Elvis, then use your smart phone to get the directions to the CES so you can enjoy this carnival of uselessness.

From what I see, as long as I have a smart phone I can control most of the technological world. And I have one of those already (as long as I pay my bill).

Touché.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise and Fall of Martin Shkreli

There is good news out there making it way around the world. One of the media branded “greediest men alive” has been brought down a peg or two. The infamous Martin Shkreli. Just who is Martin Shkreli you ask. He’s the kid that founded, and was the short-time CEO, of Turin Pharmaceuticals AG. He’s the greed-meister that obtained the manufacturing licence for the antiparasitic drug  known as Daraprim and raised it’s price by 5,556 per cent (from $13.50 to $750.00) a tablet. Daraprim is is a medication used for protozoal infections. It is commonly used as an antimalarial drug (for both treatment and prevention of malaria), and to assist in the treatment of HIV-positive individuals.It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the most important medications needed in a basic health system.  

The sad part is, if he would have raised it 200 or 300 per cent, nobody would have probably batted an eye.

Give’s you total confidence in the business of pharmaceuticals doesn’t it. This is just one of the most blatant cases in history of greed running rampant, that we know about. The pharmaceutical companies have always had their greedy fingers around our throats when it comes to the drugs we take. They have a huge lobbying syndicate influencing our elected officials, giving gifts and kickbacks and generally controlling our health. Shkreli is just their poster child who went too far, too fast.

Now here is the stinger to the whole matter. He wasn’t arrested for kiting the price of a drug that will help millions around the world, he was clipped for securities fraud from his ponzi scheme business practices. If you look into his past dealing, the guy would make the gangsters of the Prohibition Era proud. Rob Peter to pay Paul was his motto. He specialized in the pharmaceutical industry because thats where the big money fraud is. And he is just a little fish in that vast ocean.

Supposedly, if one of us poor, old normal citizens developed a drug in our garage that could benefit mankind as a whole, that would destroy all illness forever, then we would most likely make that drug available to the masses, cheaply as possible, as we picked up our Nobel Prize, and our place in history as one of mankind’s great benefactors. We do not dwell in the seedy world of profit that drives the medical and pharmaceutical companies.

As we now are forced to carry exorbitant medical insurance and extravagant drug plans just to get basic care, the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies are getting fat at our expense. When is somebody in the Congress, and the justice system, going to look at the system overall and say “No more! We have had enough!” We want health care for all so we can all be healthy, and live long and prosper.  Free health care and drugs subsidized by the government. Uh oh, then we are tap-dancing on the landmine of Socialism and we can’t have that manifesto bandied about.

So silly, immature, greedy, little Martin Shkreli will be thrown on the altar of the justice system and crucified for doing what the medical and pharmaceutical companies have been doing to us for a long time now. Thomas Jefferson once said “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

Well, I guess we have to start somewhere.

Touch’e.

 

The Electric Car Reality

A company called Faraday Future has unveiled its new concept electric car called the FFZero1. It has been described as looking like a cross between a Corvette and the Batmobile. It has 1000 horsepower and can exceed 200 mph. It can go from zero to 60 mph in less that 3 seconds. It even comes with a helmet to provide oxygen and water to the driver. Whoa, what’s that little tidbit? Is this thing going to put me in the position that I can dehydrate and be deprived of oxygen? Are my passengers doomed to ride with me? And on what highway in America can I exceed the speed limit by 130 miles per hour? I understand that this is a one seater concept car, but really!?! What are you really going to manufacture for consumers to purchase that’s realistically functional.

That is the ridiculous world of electric cars. It controls only a whopping 1% of the market and you want to know why? They are expensive, they run on batteries and there are no accessible, and reliable places to charge them.

You know, the electric car is not a new phenomena. The first electric cars were produced in the 1880’s. When the horse (1 horsepower) reigned supreme. They were actually popular around the turn of the 20th century until the dreaded, evil production of cheaper internal combustion engine cars crushed them out of existence.  And the big oil companies actually put in an infrastructure of “filling stations” that could provide the fuel to feed the combustion beasts every couple of miles or so. Not to mention mechanics that could repair them when they quit running. Then in the 1970’s, the real, bonafide car companies took a shot at it during the “energy crisis” and watched it flop again. It just wasn’t feasible.

So there’s your problem electric car manufacturers. Already written in history. If somebody is going to plop down  an extreme amount of hard cash on an electric automobile, they want to be able to go more that 250 miles before they have to “fast” charge it to 80% in 30 minutes at some establishment in the boonies, as opposed to the 15 hours it normally takes at home. The last thing consumers want is the range anxiety of leaving their hometown on a cross-country jaunt, to run out of battery power in Hayseed, Montana, where I am sure there is not a 30 minute to 80 % power up station at the local, fashionable four-star restaurant called “GAS & EATS HERE”.

When you can make electric cars cheaper than a mortgage, can get more range than just 250 miles, can guarantee a convenient power outlet every 20 miles in any direction and  can speed up the charging process to the same time frame that one can fill a tank with gas, then folks will begin to take your vehicles seriously.  Oh yeah, I am sure big oil companies will jump right on your bandwagon to help you succeed to put them out of business.

The FFZero1 describes itself as the “Tesla Killer”. Hate to burst your tiny bubbles Faraday Future but Tesla’s been dead from the beginning, and has no future resurrection anytime soon.

Touché.