Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Happy New Year everyone! The past year has just whizzed by even though it was quite an eventful one.
This year was chock full of political intrigue. Thank God the elections are over in the USA and we are now moving on with a new President elect. Any sane person hopes it is a positive change after 8 years of arguably the worst federal governance in my lifetime.
2008 will also go down as the worst year economically for both the USA and international markets since the Great Depression. Reality has finally caught up with credit happy consumers and governments. I should say "partial" reality, because I think 2009 will bring out significantly higher deficits and realities of how huge the international economic shenanigans really has been. While I know real estate and retail markets are down significantly in the USA, as I pass the New Year here in Las Vegas, I see plenty of people still traveling and spending in the malls AND the casinos. It’s not in the numbers they are used to...and with some of the deep discounting; it IS hard to resist buying at some of the significant price cuts we see from the retailers currently.
The keyword in my mind for 2009 is...CHANGE! I think we will see many changes this year...some for the good, others not. Some of the hopefully positive changes will be...
-Continued reality of woeful economics and lack of savings on the part of first world citizens will force many to rethink their priorities, cut back on spending, and go back to a cash economy.
-A new government administration in the USA at least as it looks so far should bring new and more intelligent leadership to the Federal government. Of course this could be a double edged sword as some of the ideas they have may not work or be detrimental in the long term. I do hope that in general the new government will follow through with their promise of pursuing détente and dialogue throughout the world versus solving all our crisis with the barrel of a gun. This approach has obviously not worked in the short or long term.
-Many people will be forced out of their current stagnation of thought and/or career with job losses/cutbacks forcing many people to rethink their short and long term strategies on career and lifestyle.
-Some people will recognize the need to read and understand the global issues in economics, climate and warfare and how all of this is impacting their financial and lifestyle positions. Hopefully more people will get their heads out of the TV media and more into books and deeper referential sources for understanding what is happening in their world currently.
Of course, some potentially negative changes continue to face us in this New Year:
-The masses continue to look for government controls over their lives, bigger government to cover their own lack of personal responsibility, and thereby the further destruction of personal freedoms, democracy and capitalism. These will be replaced by socialism, legislated morality instead of true morality, and increased antipathy on the part of individuals to control their own destinies.
-Socialistic changes will cause more rich and independent citizens to look for escapes for their money and lifestyles. More money and people will flow to offshore and emerging markets. More walls will be built between the haves and the have nots. The chasm between the two will continue to increase.
-During times of increased uncertainty, more people will turn to mystic religions versus struggling with difficult realities. There will be more fundamentalism fueling domestic and international conflicts of reason and actual warfare internationally will increase because of this.
-There will be less money for new technologies and "green" lifestyle pursuits. Human desperation will promote short term objectives for relief versus focus on long term struggles and solutions for climate change, dependency on fossil fuels and humanitarian aid.
To sum all this up in abbreviated form, I think 2009 will be a mixed bag of tricks. We will hopefully see some creative thinking and new ideas germinating from the current crisis of leadership and economics. We humans ARE sometimes resilient...and the current crisis globally will be a test of whether current generations are up to the challenge of solving some significant problems. Economics are at the core of everything of course, so let’s hope people both in government and the private sector are able to reshape our financial picture. We each need to do our part in this.
Personally, I will be very focused on building business and I think we will see a lot more people looking to invest and even move to emerging Latin American countries that we are operating in. I also will continue to focus on humanitarian efforts. We have local initiatives to help those less fortunate than ourselves, and we hope to increase those activities this New Year. We all need a balance between pursuing success and sharing success. If both individuals and governments can keep a reasonable balance between getting and giving...the whole world has a chance to grow, prosper and use information and money for GOOD. That is our current hope for the New Year.
Peace and prosperity to all this New Year!
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I have developed what some might call "a problem" in life. I have come to a point where I reject ALL forms of mysticism that seems to run our lives, our religions, our governments, even our medias.
Part of these ideas hit home again with me yesterday when I was visiting the Embera Indian village. Here was a race of people who have survived for centuries without global knowledge or education. They only recently started using money and telephones. In the midst of all this they continue practicing a mix of ancestral worship, holistic medicine, and just in case...some of them embrace Evangelical Christianity.
I have to preface this blog for some of you who don't know that I grew up with very heavy Evangelical Christian roots. That background is still a very real part of my thinking and value system...yet I spent a majority of my teen and young adult years "fighting the devil" of doubt. Yes, Doubting Thomas (one of Jesus' beloved disciples) is probably my favorite disciple of history. He was sometimes strong and sometimes weak in believing what he was told by Jesus. Yet, he had the advantage of knowing him "in person" and seeing his works. If HE had a problem believing Jesus was going to rise from his grave in three days, should it be any wonder many of us do?
I have studied the Bible quite thoroughly, went to my share of church services, and read most of the renown "apologists" for the faith of the last 2000 years. After all that, I still have a problem sifting fact from fiction, God from Man, and mysticism from reality. I have talked to many significant "ministers" of the faith who also quietly admit their struggles with Christian dogma.
And if that is not enough, I am tired of all the politicizing and media slanting of religion. Take the recent hoopla this week of President Elect Obama asking Rick Warren to do the invocation at the inauguration. It seems the gays, some Jews, and probably not a few Muslims are quite offended at the choice. Personally I totally understand the choice as Mr. Warren has written a number of successful books and chosen to mix politics and religion going back to the first debate with John McCain. So why was it OK for him to moderate that forum, but NOT do the prayer at the inaugural? I guess Obama needed to form a chorus of ALL religions represented in America to please everybody...American Indian chiefs, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants and even Humanists...EVERYONE should have a representative at the swearing in it seems to guarantee God's blessing on America.
What does this have to do with "mysticism"? I am going to throw out a probably controversial position with many of you. I hope you will read with an open mind. First, what is mysticism, or a mystic? For this discussion I choose the second two definitions in the dictionary as more descriptive...
1)A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.
2)Vague, groundless speculation.
I will submit the idea here that all of man's religions are "mystic" in nature. All "faiths" demand a certain "leap" from reality to that which cannot be proven. We justify our progressions of faith based on some innate need to know or answer all of life's difficult questions. Why is there war? Why some people are good and other's evil? What is the DEFINITION of good and evil?
Now most people reading this will probably think of a multitude of Bible verses, passages in the Quran, or quotes from their various religious leaders or teachers to answer those short but difficult questions. Yet, at the end of the day I submit that those definitions are based on human majorities or wealthy minorities throughout human history who have sought to bring peace and happiness to the human masses through strict guidelines of living...behavior modification is what it might be called in the science of Psychology.
Now why bring up this "nasty", divisive diatribe against human traditions and belief systems? Why can't I just go along with the throng of faithful believers from which I came? Life would be so much simpler and I would probably be loved and respected more.
One of many reasons is that I see mysticism through religion running our world at present...and not in a positive direction. Most of the world's wars and differences between the haves and have nots are based on fundamental differences of "belief". How do YOU name God? If you pray, what do you pray for? World peace and an end to poverty? Understanding and enlightenment...though you are afraid to pick up a book or listen to someone with ideas contrary to yours?
Most humans in our world spend 90% of their time in families, churches and synagogues preparing to defend themselves from the "unbelievers". I should say, 90% of their free time which is very little, because most people in the world spend 90% of their waking hours in a short life just working and thinking how to get by...find food, shelter and clothing...to either stay alive, or "keep up with the Jones". Few of us have really studied comparative religions or even human psychology. Some of us who have are really screwed up with many internal conflicts and a sense that "the more we know, the more we know we DONT know". So, we find ourselves not fitting in, feeling a bit more alone in the world of thought, and some get downright desperate to the point of finally giving in to a "leap of faith" they really don’t understand...or totally escaping from the world in general. I am meeting more and more "escapists".
Again, what's my problem with this? My problem is the lack of intelligent conversation on the crucial issues that face our very survival as humans. My problem is the many voices in religion, government and the media who manipulate and control our thinking with diversionary attention tactics. Have you ever wondered why the media focuses so much on death and murder, robberies and mayhem, instead of political issues, economic theories or even positive scientific discoveries that often save millions of fellow humans? No...THEY want us living in fear and faith, waving our political identity flags of moral superiority, and thinking that WE are more right and therefore hold more value in the world than those who are not of our race, nationality or religion. Most Presidents and leaders both domestic and foreign continue to invoke God into their speeches and interviews. "Faith is important" they say, but heaven forbid if you don't believe in supporting their wars or unfair socialistic practices. They want to legislate morality for their own ends...and FORCE anyone who doesn't agree to see it their way. Unfortunately in my mind, all religions and governments I have known are guilty of this "mystic manipulation".
Now I am meeting scores of people everywhere I go who are questioning ALL authorities. They have been let down or misled by hypocritical clergy and government leaders. Their economic advisers and managers have taken the masses on a ride of mystic manipulation that everything is all right with their money and their debts. If you just believe and keep spending and borrowing...God and your government will bail you out of whatever financial devastation you encounter.
I know this is coming off harsh for some people, but I am truly fed up with mystic manipulation of our world. I am concerned about many groups of humans who to date have not found a way to participate in the common discourse of human affairs. I am concerned for many stout hearts and minds that COULD lead our world out of these modern "Dark Ages"...but whose voices and thinking are being strangled by the larger chorus of "leaders" who control our Medias and institutions. Is this a "conspiracy" by a few to control and/or profit from our ignorance and trust? Or are we just born to be "sheep eventually led to the slaughter", crying out for God to "save us" or destroy those who are persecuting us.
Let me wrap up for now with a little more positive messaging. If my combined lifespan of thought tied to this little blog helps ONE strong thinking person participate in the dialogue of reason and action...then it is worth whatever cost of "rejection" I am risking with this blog. I am not here to promote a cause, religion or movement. I am just one human trying to reach out to others in a rational way.
I think Jesus, Mohammed, and most of the world's religious origins of personality were real people. I just think we humans have taken some of their original good works and message, and diverted it to our own extrapolations and justifications. I think it's time for the "power of one" to come alive in each of our minds and souls to make a difference HERE AND NOW. Let us not rationalize our inactions to some belief in a mystical "future life". We humans are reaping what we sow NOW in our economics, our bad health, and our complacent or negative reaction to all that is going on around us.
We need more souls like the anonymous young Chinaman in Tiananmen Square who stood in front of the tanks that were ready to attack the people. No one knows what happened to him and death estimates from that 1989 protest range anywhere from 180 to 6000. Who really knows? "They" don't want to say.
We need more "Paul Reveres" who rode through his region announcing the impending attack of the "British". A lot of people probably didn't believe him.
And we need more people like Jesus, who in 33 short years revolutionized his time and space in the world. He was put to death for going against the status quo and religion of his own people. His death...and reported resurrection...revolutionized the minds of the masses in those times. I don't know if I will ever be put to death for my ideas and beliefs, but least I can do is write a blog and hope it is a positive influence in a needy world. Hopefully the next "Jesus" won't be so heavily misquoted or used by the powers that be.
Now to only have the strength to push the "publish" button...
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Today was one of the highlights of the year for me, perhaps one of the top 5 of my lifetime. A group of us ventured to the nearest indigenous Indian village of the "Embera" tribe...a race of people going back hundreds of years in this region of Colombia and Panama. It was so impacting, I could not go to sleep tonight without posting this blog and posting up a photo tour of our day...before I forget some of the details. The overall experience I will NEVER forget and you can share some of the imagery at http://picasaweb.google.com/panamaconnections/Emberatour#
I won’t have time or energy in this one sitting to cover all the aspects and thoughts that ran through my mind today. I may have to add on to this blog over time these next weeks. For sure I will be back to visit these people who I gained quick admiration and respect for. I also come away wanting to help them...but at the same time...I am concerned about their being too affected and indoctrinated with our "first world" ways. Here's why...
The people I observed today were friendly and open, attractive inside and out, and showed hospitality and openness that I personally believe was extended by Indians initially all over the Americas...North, Central and South. Yet, invariably these Indian cultures have been devastated by white civilization, white religion, racism and violence. Where these people live there is no police, no federal governments to pay taxes to, no locks on their doors and windows, no razor wire around their community centers. They hunt, fish and live off the land for the most part. They trade and make a living by the works of their hands guided by their imaginations and traditions. I don't know if I want them learning "my" way of life. I think they would be much less happy than the eyes and smiles I observed today.
Sure, these people are living a little better now since tourism has started knocking on their door. They now have 15-25 horsepower boat motors pushing their tree trunk hardwood longboats instead of paddles. I observed a number of "weed whacker" machines and gasoline cans within their village. There are soft drinks available and a community phone booth in the center of their community which ties into a satellite on a tower at the high hill overlooking their village. They have "friends" from all over the world now...and Doctors who come there for cures and new information on herbal treatments by the Shaman.
When they have visitors, these people put on their best festive outfits, and "cover up" more than when strangers are not around. I sense their natures as being shy and peaceful, yet they are not totally immune to the human desire to learn new ways and understand other cultures as well.
Our new Peace Corp friend Amy who is spending two years helping them tells us that they are eager to learn and many of the young people are striving to continue their educations in the big city. They think they want access to computers though I hope they don’t end up spending as much time and energy on one as I do. I think it would somehow take away a part of their soul and culture if they try and imitate what my culture has become.
They have many babies and small children, but I never heard one cry the whole day we were there. The little ones quickly run to all corners of their little community without the whining and insecurity you see in first world and "city kids". The kids are not afraid of adults, but rather seem to WANT to be around them. It was just a day of "other worldliness" that is hard to describe or carry on in the modern world we operate in.
I think there is a lot of meaning in today's experiences which I will be examining in my head for many weeks and months to come. No, I will probably not move to such a village or trade in my wardrobe for a loin cloth even though I think it would be freeing...in many ways...to do so. But I think I will try and maintain some perspective between the ways of life I observed and experienced today...and the hustle bustle, consumer driven life we seem to have been dropped into from the beginning.
THe big question for today as it unfolded was...who was happier today...the lady honking from behind me in her brand new Mercedes, frustrated at the huge line of trucks and obstructing traffic keeping her from her next appointment...OR the loin clothed Embera helmsman who steered us to his villages waterfall and people? I think I know the answer.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
The day after my birthday I continue to be focused on the challenges...and opportunities...of growing older.
This video caught my eye today in the NYTimes online and once again represents some inspiration to those of us who sometimes may struggle with the idea of aging.
Fred Beckey is a world famous climber, who at 85 refuses to stop. He has devoted his whole life and made his prime passion climbing mountains and obstacles that to many seemed impossible to climb. He has had an "odd ball" life...never married, never aspired to much of a career or wealth, never seemed to fit in with "normal" people. Yet, he continues to challenge and inspire fellow climbers many of whom are 60-70 years younger. Apparently not being surrounded by family or friends who keep saying you should stop or are too old to do such things has helped him maintain his passion, health and vigor for what he loves to do.
I have always found these kinds of people interesting and inspirational. Maybe that’s why probably some of you view me and my life as a little bit "odd" or unconventional. I have never felt comfortable with someone telling me what I can't do or "shouldn't" do until it was clear in MY mind that was so. Sure, there have been times I should have listened to some of those voices...but there's no lesson in life sometimes like the hard ones...learned your own way. As long as they don't kill you, they make you stronger and hopefully wiser.
Society spends way too much time looking outward at others, placing judgment on other's behaviors, making rules for deportment and behavior for the masses. Our governments place far too much importance, time and money on trying to legislate morality...and behavior if you will. Humans are too bent on moderating and controlling each other...whether it be physically, mentally or socially. "They" are always telling "us" where we can and cannot travel on this globe. "They" are quite petty about appropriate dress and comportment. It’s almost like the key to success socially and/or financially requires the right external appearance...going to the right schools...learning the correct and acceptable vocabulary. Most children are brought up in very controlled environments where their every move and identity is configured to please their parents, family and friends, or society at large. In this type of life, it is quite difficult to break out and know who you are individually...and when/if you arrive there, it is made more difficult to "feel good about it".
Yet, in the midst of all this pressure, the human spirit continues to rise above in many people to accomplish or become what THEY envision for themselves. This does not happen without extreme sacrifice and focus on personal objectives. I have a sense that Fred Beckey has never cared much about whether he was accepted by his family or peers. I don't think Fred has worried much about money, or politics, or in general what is going on with the human race around him. I sense he has been somehow singularly focused on what HE wants to pursue, conquer or experience. Some might call him the ultimate selfish egotist. Maybe he is...I don't know. But his apparent health and vitality with continued pursuit of his own passion stands out to me as laudable, admirable, and I think an example that calls out to the many young people who now live in awe of him that all things are possible for those who continue climbing, reaching for their dreams, or the next peak to conquer.
Somehow I have always felt that a true person of quality can never stop pursuing improvement or having a goal to pursue. No matter what age or station in life, I think we each have more to achieve...only limited by our own imaginations and will power.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A friend of mine sent me this message early this morning. It seems especially fitting on today...another birthday. The years fly by, people and opportunities flash through your life, and each year gets more important in how you spend it. I hope this story impacts you positively as it did me...
After a two year battle with cancer, teenager Miles Levin, unfortunately lost his fight.However, during his final years, he achieved a level of self-awareness, courage and wisdom that most of us will never reach.
"Dying is not what scares me. It's dying and having no impact." Here's what Miles said just one month after being diagnosed with terminal cancer:
"I went to the driving range the other day and I was thinking...I was thinking about how you start out with a big bucket full of golf balls, and you just start hitting away carelessly. You have dozens of them, each individual ball means nothing to you so just hit, hit, hit.One ball is practically inconsequential when subtracted from your bottomless bucket. There are no practice swings or technique re-evaluations after a bad shot, because so many more tries remain.Yet eventually you start to have to reach down towards the bottom of the bucket to scavenge for another shot and you realize that tries are running out. Now with just a handful left, each swing becomes more crucial, so between each shot you take a couple practice swings and a few deep breaths. There is a very strong need to end on a good note, even if the preceding shot was terrible, getting it right at the end means a lot. You know as you tee up your last ball, "This is my final shot, I want to crush this with perfection; I must make this count".
Limited quantities or limited time brings a new, precious value and significance to anything you do. Live every day shooting as if it's your last shot. I know I have to." --Miles Alpern Levin, July 7, 2005
Like Miles suggested, we should treat each day as a precious ball of life. Take your time, take a breath and make a practice swing. Make each shot count and most of all finish strong!
Monday, December 15, 2008
These past days and weeks I have gotten lazy and decided other people are writing what I think better than I can...so, here is another repost from former Representative Bob Bauman. More information on our "leader's" ways that I want my friends and family to be aware of...
The U.S. Congress, soon to be in increased control of the Democrats, will waste no time in helping President-elect Barack Obama to fulfill his campaign promise to "shut down the tax havens," Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) predicted last week.Levin, the long-time Senate leader in attacking tax havens, predicted that his legislation, the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act,. S. 681, first introduced in 2007, will become law next year with the support of the President Obama, who was one of the bill's original co-sponsors.
It is not too much to say that Senator Levin is a fanatic when it comes to his often irrational attacks on tax havens. He has created numerous false myths to support his radical views.
Typical of Senator Levin's wild claims is his statement that "tax havens are engaged in economic warfare against the United States and honest, hardworking American taxpayers". In my opinion that is a patent and absurd lie.
Big spending, high tax politicians such as Carl Levin resent these jurisdictions because globalization has made it much more difficult to impose confiscatory tax rates. Indeed, tax rates have dropped dramatically since 1980, in part because havens have led to greater tax competition among nations.
Daniel J. Mitchell, senior Cato Institute fellow specializing in tax issues, has pointed out that competition from tax havens has reduced taxes worldwide, and that the leading tax havens (for non-citizens) in the world are, in fact, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In most cases, tax havens are free and independent jurisdictions. These countries are freely making their successful way in this world of global economics by offering low or no taxes on foreigners who do business there. Unlike the United States - where Levinism has systematically destroyed financial privacy - tax and asset haven nations such as Switzerland and Panama, guarantee financial privacy by law.
But Senator Levin has a long history of attacks on the financial privacy and individual rights of Americans.
Start with the fact that in the post 9-11, 2001 congressional panic, Levin somehow conned the gullible Bush White House into adopting some of the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act. These Levin provisions helped destroy Americans' financial privacy and gave government police virtually unchecked power over domestic U.S. financial and banking activity.
A companion Levin-Obama bill even goes so far as to curtail centuries-old legal rights to create and operate freely offshore trusts, corporations, and other entities traditionally used to protect assets. Ignoring the U.S. Constitution and the presumption of innocence, the senator's legislation would force any American with offshore financial activities to prove their actions do not involve illegal tax evasion.
So having been warned, I remind you that there is still a window of opportunity before Big Brother's anti-offshore law comes into effect. Consider exercising your rights while they still exist...
It is legal to have and use an offshore bank or other financial account. It is legal to create and donate assets to an offshore asset protection trust or family foundation. It is legal to form and operate an international business corporation (IBC). It is legal to acquire dual citizenship and a second passport. It is legal to voluntarily end U.S. citizenship and thereby remove yourself from the U.S. tax system. It is legal to purchase offshore life insurance and annuities that allow deferred taxes. It is legal to invest in offshore mutual and hedge funds, precious metals and real estate.
BOB BAUMAN, Legal Counsel
A few brief footnotes of my own...
Does anyone else see the irony of these government leaders who have overseen the economic debacle our system has become are now trying to legislate that what little remaining capital we Americans have in the USA needs to stay in the USA BY LAW? This is like the wolves forcing the chickens to continue laying their eggs in the henhouse...for which the wolves hold the keys!
I predict that if Obama goes the way of Levin and other ultra liberals in the USA congress...you will see billions of dollars leaving the USA system long before they can "lock up the chicken coop". This will only escalate and speed up the process of America's economic collapse. I hope Ron Paul and the few other realists and constitution supporters in Congress can offset this radical mentality of these feeble, liberal government "aristocrats". I hate to say it, because Levin is from my home state...but it is these life long politicians who are largely responsible for putting my country and home-state in the financial condition it is in. These people should ALL be bounced. I know some X-Gens who could manage better than these bafoons...yet we continue to get the government we "deserve" (vote for).
The best thing that could happen for America to quickly recover economically is position ourselves as a competitive tax country for ALL world citizens...including ourselves! If the government wants MORE tax revenues, they had better find ways to make business profitable and productive within its borders and creating more jobs...otherwise they will be "beating on rocks to find water" economically speaking in a very short time.
Next time you hear a Carl Levin or such person talk about "shutting down tax havens", remember that the USA and United Kingdom are the two largest havens in the world. To do away with tax competition globally will be another form of self-immolation on the part of our own government and financial system. If you want to continue losing your independence and sovereignty over your livelihood, just keep nodding yes to these hegemonists...
I want no part in THEIR version of "freedom by compliance". Just look where it has gotten us...
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Worth reposting...and no additional comments necessary...
HAVE YOU LISTENED TO AN EXPERT LATELY?
Our great country was founded upon Trust; trust in our government leaders, trust in our commercial system, trust in our currency, and trust in each other. Without trust, a Republic will fail. A Republic is ruled by the people, not power hungry politicians, lifetime bureaucrats, or corporate interests. Our currency is imprinted with the words, “In God We Trust”. It is not imprinted with “In Ben We Trust” or “In Hank We Trust”.
Over time, trust in our government, financial leaders and corporate leaders has declined to the point where Americans cannot and should not trust anything they are told. It is essential that every citizen do their duty and skeptically assess everything they are told by politicians, bureaucrats and corporate CEOs. They will continue to speak authoritatively like they know exactly what will happen in the future. They are lying. None of these experts can even predict what will happen next week, let alone next year. If you don’t think my advice is applicable, just read what these “experts” have said in the last few years:
George W. Bush, Sept 2007:
The Federal government will not bail out lenders — because that would only make a recurrence of the problem more likely. And it is not the government’s job to bail out speculators, or those who made the decision to buy a home they knew they could never afford.
Christopher Dodd, Chair, Senate Banking Committee, Financial Post, July 12, 2008:
These institutions [Fannie and Freddie] are fundamentally sound and strong. There is no reason for the kind of [stock market] reaction we’re getting.
Phil Gramm, July 10, 2008:
Misery sells newspapers. Thank God the economy is not as bad as you read in the newspaper every day.
Barney Frank regarding Fannie & Freddie, 2005:
I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.
Barney Frank regarding Fannie & Freddie, 2007:
I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.
Alan Greenspan, October 2004:
Improvements in lending practices driven by information technology have enabled lenders to reach out to households with previously unrecognized borrowing capacities.
Alan Greenspan, 2005:
There is a chance that housing prices could fall, but its effect on the economy will be limited.
Alan Greenspan, May 2005:
The use of a growing array of derivatives and the related application of more-sophisticated approaches to measuring and managing risk are key factors underpinning the greater resilience of our largest financial institutions .... Derivatives have permitted the unbundling of financial risks.
Alan Greenspan, October 1, 2006:
I suspect that we are coming to the end of the housing downturn, as applications for new mortgages, the most important series, have flattened out…I think that the worst of this may well be over.
Henry Paulson, January 2007:
The market impact of the U.S. subprime mortgage fallout is largely contained and that the global economy is as strong as it has been in decades.
Henry Paulson, April 20, 2007;
All the signs I look at show the housing market is at or near the bottom. The U.S. economy is very healthy and robust.
Henry Paulson, March 2, 2008:
I’m not interested in bailing out investors, lenders and speculators.
Ben Bernanke during Congressional Testimony March 2007:
At this juncture, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained.
Ben Bernanke, May 5, 2007:
We will follow developments in the subprime market closely. However, fundamental factors—including solid growth in incomes and relatively low mortgage rates—should ultimately support the demand for housing, and at this point, the troubles in the subprime sector seem unlikely to seriously spill over to the broader economy or the financial system.
Ben Bernanke, October 15, 2007:
It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve—nor would it be appropriate—to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their financial decisions.
Timothy Geithner, May 15, 2007:
Changes in financial markets, including those that are the subject of your conference, have improved the efficiency of financial intermediation and improved our confidence in the ability of markets to absorb stress. In financial systems around the world, the capital positions of banks have improved and capital markets are becoming deeper and playing a larger role in financial intermediation. Financial innovation has improved the capacity to measure and manage risk. Risk is spread more broadly across countries and institutions.
Warren Buffett, on Bloomberg TV, May 3, 2008:
The worst is over.
Moody’s internal email:
Sometimes, we drink the kool-aid.
S&P internal email:
It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.
S&P internal memo:
Let’s hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters.
MikeThomson, Financial Post, April 25, 2007:
Chairman Bernanke has succeeded; the economy has been positioned on a sustainable track for manageable expansion: A Goldilocks scenario that is neither too hot nor too cold.
Jim Cramer regarding Bear Stearns, June 22, 2007:
And I believe there will be NO FALLOUT whatsoever beyond the funds, despite the innate desire by so many people to rumor and panic the marketplace.
Jim Cramer, August 4, 2008 – market is down 28% since then:
I am indeed sticking my neck out right here, right now… declaring emphatically that I believe the market will not revisit the panicked lows it hit on July 15, and I think anyone out there who’s waiting for that low to be breached is in for a big disappointment and [they’re] missing a great deal of upside. My bottom call isn’t gutsy. I think it’s just a smart call that all the evidence points toward. Bye, bye bear market. Say hello to the bull and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Ben Stein, August 13, 2007 – market down 40% since then:
The stock market is cheap on a price-earnings basis, profits are fabulous, both here and abroad, stocks are a lovely place to be. I have no idea what the S&P will be ten days from now, but I am confident it will be a lot higher ten years from now, and for most Americans, that's what we need to think about. The subprime and private equity and hedge fund dogs may bark, but the stock market caravan moves on.
Ben Stein, January 27, 2008;
The losses in the stock market since the highs of October 2007 are about 14 percent. This predicts — very roughly — a fall in corporate profits of roughly 14 percent. Yet there has never been a decline of quite that size for even one year in the postwar United States, and never more than two years of declining profits before they regained their previous peak.
Stanley O’Neal, former CEO of Merrill Lynch, January 2007:
We finished the year positioned better than ever to capitalize on the array of opportunities still emerging around the world as a result of what we believe are fundamental and long-term changes in how the global economy and capital markets are developing.
John Thain, another former CEO of Merrill Lynch, April 8, 2008:
We deliberately raised more capital than we lost last year ... we believe that will allow us to not have to go back to the equity market in the foreseeable future.
Charles Prince, former CEO of Citigroup, July 2007:
When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.
Angelo Mozilo, former CEO of Countrywide Financial, July 2007 after he sold $138 million of stock:
But as I do reflect on it, and I do a lot, that nobody saw this coming. S&P and Moody's didn't see it coming, but they simply just downgrade bonds, they don't take hits. Bear Stearns certainly didn't see it coming. Merrill Lynch didn't see it coming. Nobody saw this coming.
KenThompson, former CEO of Wachovia, October 2007:
I’m confident our company is in the right businesses for the long term and that our strategy of being in high growth businesses and markets, our laser focus on customer service, our expense discipline, and our commitment to strong credit risk management, will create value for our shareholders in the future.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
In viewing this video this morning, I couldn't help but wonder what this piece on musical education in China means to us competitively in the USA. All we seem to hear about is the growth and economic revolution going on in China, who happens to hold huge percentages of America's national debt. And while I'm sure we could find USA examples of similar music prodigies to compare to, I doubt our system keeps up with China in the growth in numbers of pianos sold and the enlargement of their concert halls to sustain the booming numbers attending classical concerts in China.
To me this is just another small example of how our American culture has digressed while others like China are rising. If we American's do not quickly rediscover our commitment to disciplined growth and development, we will continue to decline and be overcome by cultures that less than 50 years ago were in shambles.
For China's sake I truly hope the new spirit of freedom and development continues and helps their huge population feed and educate itself towards a more open society. For America's sake, I hope we don't fall into their historical condition of blindly following dictatorial leadership and hopeless causes.
It's time for healthy competition between all superpowers in the world. Competition in developing culture, economies and personal disciplines...not guns and bombs.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I really AM trying to find and write on more positive news and ideas...but today's combination of crisis economically, politically and even natural disasters forces us to look realistically at what is going on around us and motivates us to plan or adjust based on the facts and trends at hand.
This Op-Ed last week in NYTimes brings to consideration the next shoe to drop in the USA economic crisis. The circle of financial collapse in the USA is not close to terminating yet. Round one has been a combination of Wall Street corporate America and the USA government’s mis-managing and mis-appropriating BILLIONS of dollars of income from taxpayers and consumers...and now asking the US Taxpayer to bail out all these major corporate institutions PLUS the government behind them. Yet, the fallacious part of this agenda is where this bailout money will come from.
Let's face it; the government only has a couple sources of funds...we taxpayers and possibly the "spoils of war". Yet, it seems we fight wars without any of the spoils these days accept for the billions exchanged between the government fighting machine and the private military industrial complex that sells to the government to propagate these wars (oops...I'm sorry. We don't have declared "wars" anymore, just regional conflicts). Of course, many of our elected leaders profit from funds or even "blind ownership" in many of these private industries...so one could argue, "conflicts" are good for THEM. But, to get back on track, where does all this money for wars and bailouts come from? The TAXPAYERS! To my knowledge we are getting no payments from Iraqi oil in return for our defense of their country and "freedoms". What spoils of war are we gaining in Afghanistan...and why stop there...what are we gaining from the BILLIONS we spend fighting drug cartels and dealers? I see no progress, I see no gains.
So...if all of these wars and bailouts are on the backs of the USA tax system, it seems quite logical that we need to look at the economic condition and "credit worthiness" of American business and taxpayers. With many personal portfolios dropping in value 40-50% at least on "paper" in the current stock market recession, and businesses cutting back, cutting jobs and seeing less profits because of the sudden reversals in "consumerism"...just where is government going to find resources for current and future "bailout" needs? And who is to blame for being in this predicament?
Going back to core reasons and values, I think the finger points back to each of us Americans who have bought into the spirit of consumerism and sold our souls to easy credit and "keeping up with the Jones". As long as we have had low unemployment and easy credit, we have been mostly focused on OURSELVES, our image, and blindly trusted our government and financial institutions to be there for us when needed. We have made large tax contributions to government and paid large interest to these financial institutions. In return they almost jointly market back to us the pressure to buy buy buy, borrow borrow borrow, until the point where they "own" us. Is it only me who sees the lunacy of this circle where we are offered contracts on TV and in the mail constantly urging us to slit our own financial throats...by the same institutions and government that COUNTS ON our profitability and savings for income that fuels all this activity?
In short, what we have here is the next reality of what I fear will be a long term "reality check" for our country and its institutions. And this reality will affect the whole global economy, so EVERYONE should prepare and or adjust for the storm. Because when the consumers come knocking on governments door for relief of THEIR historical financial mistakes, any remaining funds that came off their backs in the first place will have already been raided by the very institutions and government that offered them all these "benefits" for decades. There is no such thing as "free money", and it is going to take each of us individually protecting and adjusting OURSELVES to protect from the oncoming devastation of our own past actions and/or inactions.
I am afraid we are in for a long needed re-education that "A is A" (see my previous blog on "Objectivity"). Sometime in life the math always adds up. Action-RE Action. We need to plan and get back to analyzing some of those very basic realities. It is time to cut bait with credit...credit cards, home and car loans, and for sure retail spending. And if many of us do this, it will unfortunately speed up the process of financial devastation to the financial markets and the government coffers...at least in the short term. It will be a tough number of years. But SOMEHOW we have to take back our individual responsibility and sovereignty over our own fates. WE have to tell the government what we will and will not accept...after all, they are just OUR representatives, right? Only when we are able to once again build and save for OURSELVES and our security will we be able to rebuild true wealth and security. All of these short term bailouts and gyrations in the markets are basically temporary Band-Aids over the true gaping wounds of our reality. It is time for each of us to do our own part to weather the storm and survive. And, I'm sorry to say, it may mean following the rich to investments and holding patterns financially OUTSide of the USA system that has now revealed its true, dysfunctional head.