A Shameful Society

What kind of world do we live in when a slime ball like Bill O’Reilly not only doesn’t get fired for sexual harassment but also gets a huge payoff when the company he works for (FOX) realizes that people are upset that he got away with sexually harassing multiple women – who were also paid … Continue reading “A Shameful Society”

What kind of world do we live in when a slime ball like Bill O’Reilly not only doesn’t get fired for sexual harassment but also gets a huge payoff when the company he works for (FOX) realizes that people are upset that he got away with sexually harassing multiple women – who were also paid off by Fox to keep them from pursuing charges? Certainly I’m no fan of the politics of Fox news, but this takes the cake – essentially, O’Reilly just got a huge payoff for being a dirtbag – it’s almost as bad as electing a man accused of sexually assaulting an underage girl to the office of the President – which, come to think of it, actually happened and so this shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Decency does not matter any more in the United States – only money.As long as existing home sales rise (they have), marketshare, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rises – all is forgiven.

I have spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out what is propping up our economy and I’ve failed to discover anything – which is not a surprise – no one seems to have the answers as to why the economy in general should be rising but the fundamentals of the economy remain gloomy. I’ve got a few guesses 1) there is a lot more US Currency being printed than we are being told – the economy is still being fluffed 2) student debt is somehow being packaged and resold despite an average default of once every minute 3) capital doesn’t have a safehaven or a strong negative bet and is bouncing around while it waits for a shoe to drop.

As a retailer, I know one thing for sure, people are not spending recklessly on material goods. I don’t know where their money is going – but they are being tight with it when it comes to spending in brick and mortar shops. My suspicion is they are spending credit on online retail, spending cash on food and experiences like travel, and investing equity in their properties which they use for AirBnB rentals – which drives the cost of rent up and the cost of buying a property up as well.

And all of that leaves the great majority of us – scratching our heads and wondering where all the prosperity we were promised as kids has disappeared to. And the answer is, it doesn’t matter. Go buy a lottery ticket or do some serious sexual harassment because that is the surest path to riches in the USA of today.

The Joy of an Ebay Auction

I’m watching an auction right now….it’s something I want, but don’t need yet, but will need eventually, so I’ve been watching a few auctions. Most of them have gone for way too much – this one though – the price is right – at the moment, but there are 27 minutes left, so that can change in a bit. I’ve learned that bidding too soon is a mistake and only drives the price higher, but so has everyone else. The price just went up by $10…. 16 minutes left. We are all only waiting for the last five minutes and ideally the last minute…if it hasn’t gone past my limit by the last minute, I’ll punch in my highest price and hope that no one else goes higher…but they might…that’s the risk I take, but then, I know what the most I want to pay is, and I only give myself time for one bid – if the pre-last-minute-bids exceed my maximum, than I will watch another auction. And wait…and of course, the rule of whatever that is…oh, Murphy’s Law…says that just before I punch in my last minute winning bid, the internet will cut out, there will be a household emergency, or the power will go off…it happens all the time, or at least we notice when it happens and when it doesn’t we don’t notice but this time, we will all be aware of it – you and me that is….down to 11 minutes now…me and the six people waiting for the last minute are on the edge of our seats for 10 minutes – this is really living – and it’s not like a live auction where a last minute bidder can steal it from you – ebay runs on time, not energy – so we have all learned that if you wait until the end – you might get a bargain but if you bid early, you are screwed and only screwing yourself further…it’s gone up $30 since I started this post…oh, the agony of waiting but the orgasmic thrill of actually being alive every moment as the seconds tick down…this is life (as we know it) this is living (as we know it) this is the thrill of the hunt (as we know it). It’s hard to contain myself, to keep myself for premature ebidulation, I am so excited, oh my goodness….the last time I did this, I got distracted and punched in my final bid two seconds too late and missed the deal of the century…(is my tongue too firmly in my cheek as I write this) but wait, here we are at five minutes and I still have a chance…should I bid now, no wait, wait. Hold back man….these are either real professional masters of self control or maybe I’m the only one watching in this heightened state of excitement….how can they not be bidding? How can I? It’s at the point where I need to just go watch the clock now…you will have to wonder if I won or not…(but the price went up by 300% in the last minute!)

What I’m Reading: Money by D.H. Robertson Cambridge Economic Handbooks

I’ve always had an intellectual fascination with money and when I saw an old book on a shelf called “Money by D.H. Robertson“, my hope was that it would be a book about the origins and social dynamics of money through the ages – I have not yet found such a book and this looked like a possible candidate – but once again I was disappointed. Disappointed in not finding what I was looking for but delighted with what I found.

This incredibly readable and interesting little book edited by the famous economist John Maynard Keynes (arguably one of the the most influential economic policy makers of the 20th century – father of Keynesian Economics!) and written by D.H. Robertson is a textbook on (essentially) world banking practices written just prior to the stockmarket crash which led to the worldwide Great Depression and during the hieght of the recovery from what Robertson calls The Great Muddle – which was the confusion of banking practices and economic chaos that led to and followed up upon World War I. This little book was written prior to chaotic events of the Depression and World War II.

The chapters of this seemingly dull book about banking practices are each led off with a quote from Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass – which pretty well convinced me that what was to follow would be trip down the rabbit hole. I was not disappointed. The opening chapters were as close as I was to get to my desired study of the origins of money in that we are given a definition “anything which is accepted inthe payment of goods or in the discharge of other kinds of business obligations” – Robertson makes a good argument that the best argument for money is that it allows manufacturers the ability to acquire raw materials without having to trade their finished product for the materials – which the raw material producers may not need or have a use for. So, essentially, it simplifies things. He argues that for the consumer, it allows a freedom of choice and eliminates a large degree of waste which would follow from payment in kind. Finally, (and this is where this becomes more of a text about banking) the existence of money makes it possible for there to be loans and debts.

Later in the chapter, Robertson talks about how a downturn affects the businessman – how demand dries, then prices drop, then they drop below the level of profitability and then, and this is interesting how businessmen at different levels deal with a recession:

If he is old and wily and has made his pile he retires from business for a season and goes for a sea voyage or into the House of Commons or Congress. If he is young and ambitious or idealistic he keeps the ball rolling and the flag flying as best he can. If he is an average sort of manufacturerhe explains that while he adheres to his previous opinion that the finances of his business is no concern of the working classes, yet just so much financial knowledge as to see the absurdity of the existing trade-union rate is a thing which any workman should possess. In any case, early or late, he bows to his fate .. and restricts in greater or less degree the output of his product and two things happen…the world adopts a lower standard of comfort cutting off its nose, as it were, to spite its face. And men trained and willing to work find no work to do, and tramp about the streets with the parrot-cries of journalists about increased output ringing in their ears and growing rancor in their hearts.

“Thus money, which is a source of so many blessings to mankind, becomes also, unless we can control it, a source of peril and confusion.”

And with that the book dives into monetary policy, most of which has not been applicable since the gold and silver standards were abandoned and most of the world’s currency became fiat, that is money based on debt but without any actual source of backing. This is interesting reading, written in a lyrical style that is sometimes hard to correlate with economic policy. The chapter about economic policy during “The Great Muddle” is fascinating – looking at the root economic causes of the first world war from an economic rather than a political perspective is enlightening. The following chapter which delves into economic cycles is equally compelling as it most likely is the root of the entire Keynesian school of economic thought – before the events of the depression and World War II had solidified the theories.

Overall, an enjoyable journey down a dry and abandoned rabbit hole which expanded my understanding of economic policy and banking without boring me to tears.

The Looming Financial Crisis – Navient Student Loans

Here is what the base of the next big financial crisis will be…it will be students like me who borrowed $30k and then graduated at the start of the great recession – and then were encouraged to use forbearance on their student loans while they struggled to find their feet under them, start families, and pay for modern requirements like cell phones, internet, insurance (car and health and home), and deal with the seemingly invisible (to the government) steeply rising cost of living in virtually every area. Personally, my debt has grown by nearly 20K through forbearance, since I have used forbearance I will not be eligible for debt forgiveness, and my income has never reached a level where debt repayment is a realistic option – so I will continue to use forbearance until companies like Navient say that I no longer can and then I will probably be forced to default or refinance with a different company which will start the same cycle. Meanwhile Navient uses their debt like cash and that imaginary money (which will probably never be repaid) boosts the stagnant economy enough that people don’t see we are in a very perilous situation. And then – it bursts – and it is too late.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-03/student-debt-giant-navient-to-borrowers-you-re-on-your-own

The Thoughts and Questions That Plague My Mind

Is this the best that we can do?

That’s the first one. It’s the most depressing one. Humanity has failed. Not only is it not the best we can do, it’s not even in the top 90% of what we can do. We have failed on so many levels that it is impossible to list them all. Here are just a few with no statistics because I’m sure the statistics would be even worse.
Child Starvation
People with no access to healthcare
Suicide
Hate crimes
Addiction in all of it’s forms
Environmental degradation
Mass Extinction
Homelessness (while speculation homes sit empty)
I could go on…and on…and on…and on. We have failed. This human civilization is a complete and total failure. We have failed each other and we have failed ourselves in the process.

So that’s the first question that plagues my mind. And it brings me to the next question which is more personal “Is this the best I can do?” and the answer to that is no too. My ego wants to give me all the excuses in the world – starting with blaming this human culture I am forced to live in. Ultimately, I want to do more, but I fail. I’m like the old woman with $1 who donates half of it to charity. It’s 50% of what she has and it doesn’t make a difference. 100% of what she has wouldn’t make a difference. I’m like that – unless she can do something to get a much larger sum of money – her charity won’t matter a bit – and neither will mine. I have to scramble, duck, and roll and focus my energy non-stop in order to take care of my family and keep myself in a position to do so. And that excuse sounds pretty good – but the truth is I am not doing the best I can do and I don’t know exactly why that is.

Love is the answer. I’m pretty sure that’s true. However, I’m so filled with anger and rage at the injustices of the world that it is sometimes impossible to give a stranger so much as a smile. Especially if I’ve just read about a child being separated from their parents and the stranger is driving a $50,000 truck with a Make America Great Again sticker on it. Man, those awful baby boomers – they’ve made the world a thousand times worse than it was before them. All the wars in history before them didn’t do as much damage to the planet as they have done in their lifetimes with their greed and hypocrisy. And they’ve tightened the chains around those who followed and reduced the chances for us to achieve any sort of real meaningful freedom besides death.

I’ll tell you what hell would be – to die and wake up surrounded by all the baby boomers. It’s hell on earth and it would be the worst sort of eternal hell. I’ve never been scared of death, but that thought makes me want to cling onto dear life with a death-grip. The soldier-hippie boomers of the 60s, the disco boomers of the 70s, the awful yuppie boomers of the 80s,the disgusting bootstrap-upper management boomers of the 90s, the foul early retirement boomers of the 2000s, and the RV-downsized-still-most-selfish-generation-but-now-need-to-be-taken-care-of boomers of the current decade. God, I want to puke. So, yeah, love may be the answer but I can’t love them because I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome.

What the kids today need to do is have a Lord of the Flies party where take out everyone who is already an adult or who thinks like an adult in the world today and then re-create society. Lord of the Flies would be messy and I don’t want to be killed by gangs of tweens, but for them it would be a better solution.

I wish I could tell you I have an ideology that would make things better – but I don’t. All of the ideologies are bullshit. The ideologues are assholes. And of course, money is the problem – I’ve been to Sardis where the first money was produced and while it was a beautiful ruin – I’ve never been somewhere that so completely emanated evil – although the Pentagon has the same sort of vibe and when I’ve visited concentration camps – those have a similar aura. Do you want to understand money? I wanted to. It’s part of what led me to Sardis in the first place. Money makes slavery possible. Without money, slavery is impossible. People like my sister – who work hard and study and stay on course and spend their lives working working working (but rarely at what they are passionate about) talk about working hard for a purpose – that purpose is ‘buying their freedom’. They want to be free someday – which tells you the truth – they are not free. And if you are not free you are either a prisoner or a slave.

I am a slave to money. I admit it. I do what money needs me to do. I do what money tells me to do. Sometimes it is fun – usually, I feel like a prisoner forced to labor.

The Gradual Dismantling of Democracy

The first 50 days of President Il Douche have been somewhat of a relief – which is a bit strange to say, but there it is. My worst fears had been a sort of blitzkrieg against everything that our country stands for – using the National Guard against civilian targets, the setting up of internment camps, the rounding up of political enemies, and the seizing of assets based on religion, ethnicity, or politics. Yes, steps have been taken by the administration in all of these directions but the safeguards put in place by the founding fathers and later generations have proved to be a buffer, not an insurmountable buffer, but one that has prevented the instant consolidation of power and allows time for resistance to be organized. All of that being said – the American experiment in democracy is being dismantled albeit at a gradual rate. There has been no grand awakening of enlightenment among the new administration, no sudden revelation of truth, justice, and the American way. In many ways, it has proved itself to be worse than even the most pessimistic among us feared – but the slowdown has been such a relief. The appointments and nominations were not rubber stamped, the initial travel ban was challenged and shut down, the follow up ban continues to be challenged, protections for LGBT, children, and immigrants have been weakened but not wiped away- yet. In my worst fears, things would already be much worse than they are – but of course they are actually very very bad. The most powerful position in the world is occupied by a narcissistic liar who deflects legitimate concerns about the integrity of his person or his government with manufactured conspiracy theories – we have still not seen his taxes or income and probably never will, the ties between Russia and his administration (and himself personally) run deep – deep enough that it is not inconceivable that he is bought and paid for by Russian oil money, each potential scandal surrounding him seems to be met with a manufactured conspiracy from the Russian controlled wikileaks, or a made-up story taken directly from talk radio. It seems clear to me that while we are distracted by the absurd headline grabbing stories, the safeguards of democracy are being dismantled behind our backs. If you think about it, the US with it’s drone like workforce and population enslaved by debt is an income generating machine – if you were to think of it as a company (which the current administration certainly does) you would work at weakening unions and collective bargaining power, decreasing pay and benefits, and increasing output. If we were to look at the current administration as a hostile takeover by corporate raiders, the next step is asset stripping to pay back the debts incurred by the hostile takeover. I believe that we can expect to see legislation which enables the following – maximizing debt for corporate projects (i.e. huge infrastructure projects, increased military spending, privatization of government funded institutions), defunding of institutions designed to protect citizens from corporate greed, selling off of assets to administration-friendly corporations at a loss, and a softer position internationally against our own interest but in the favor of Russian interests. The wealth of those associated with the administration will soar, the chains of debt for the rest of us will be strengthened. I believe we will see credit requirements eased but exit strategies from that debt tightened. Bankruptcy, which has allowed the administration’s CEO to get to where he is, might be a thing that is no longer allowed below a certain level. Time will tell. In any event, I don’t think that things are looking good for anyone who is not already in the top 10%.