Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Low Oil Prices HURT Economies?

I admit I am no Harvard trained economist nor am I well schooled on the details of the oil industry.  Unfortunately by being sick the past few days, I have listened to more TV news drivel on various subjects including this one than I normally would.

I strongly suggest everyone search for their news and perspectives on this subject via online news forums.  The drivel coming out of CNN and FOX in the USA are in all time high "spin mode" to defend the "poor" oil industry.

I have friends in the oil industry and relatives whose careers depend on its viability. They have much deeper perspective and feelings on this subject than I do I'm sure. Yet I can't stop myself from spewing a little against the unsubstantiated drivel on USA news waves this week.

Yes, there are winners and losers in any swings of this nature in ANY industry. Everyday the markets bet and invest on whether investments or commodities will go up or down.  Some day traders play these movements by the minute. Nobody wins all the time, and a lot of people LOSE all the time. Why...because they don't know what they are doing.

I am an admitted free market aficionado as a marketer and an entrepreneur.  I have lost my share of business risks...and fortunately won a few battles along the way to keep me in the game. The older I get, the more I see reason and rationale go out the window of business...and I see big corps and special interests taking over industries based on funding government regulators. For me, one of the most corrupt, controlled industries in the world is BIG OIL.While I would like to think these market price corrections are true reflections of market factors, I think this battle is a behind the scenes war between the large, politically connected oil producers trying to stamp out competition.  There is also a strong element of political battles that this phenomenon supports as we have seen in the quick devaluation of the Russia ruble and their overall economy.  Other producers like Venezuela and Mexico are quickly feeling the pain as well. The big boys in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere have stockpiled cash against times like this while these other socialist or communist producers have not been able to do so because they have such huge social and economic problems. Where the states control and extricate the profits from petroleum, it is pretty hard to stockpile cash in the "good times" or to develop more sustainable enterprises for their economies.

The bigger issues to me are...should any economy be based on petroleum production and sales?  And just how is it that market supply and demand really influences the price of crude or a gallon of gasoline?

As a technology and futuristic driven soul, I have for decades been a proponent of a cleaner environment and expansion of cleaner, "green" energy production. It has been obvious to me that big oil along with their political muscles have kept new energy R&D as slim as possible in order to continue their hold on global reliance on the combustible gas engine and oil burning energy. Even with these continued investments contrary to new sciences, it seems to me any semi intelligent human should be able to see that technology advances are going to reduce reliance on oil and gas at a faster and faster rate. The more we buy electric or solar powered vehicles and apparatuses, the more we will see reduced costs in energy production or consumerism. Why should it be a surprise to anyone that demand could be waning?  Why shouldn't the prices come down?  Just so we can save an antiquated oil industry?

It always alarms me when I sense that the big powers that be continue to fight over controls of oil production and pricing.  How is it that for so long OPEC has controlled the global prices of energy we all rely on? How is it that the USA as the largest consumer, continues to support and fund further exploration of oil outside our own borders?  Why are we not focused on replacing oil with greener clean solutions like wind, solar and nuclear? I even hear reports that new uses of Hydrogen in controlled settings could produce more energy than any other known resource. But no, we continue drilling, fracking and shipping more and more oil in and out of our countries with no end in sight.

And why is no one paying attention to the positives of reduced prices on gas and oil?  Oil is a leading "inflator" of our whole economic system.  I think we could stand for a little de-inflation...especially for the poor and middle class.

Let the economic "war games" begin. Those countries rich in oil whose governments have been using those revenues to run over their people and political enemies for too long and not creating vibrant, diversified economies deserve to "go bust" or at least experience political upheaval. It is just bad leadership to base your country or economy on a limited resource whose future looks less than robust. Everyone is facing huge disruptions based on technological and scientific advances.  Any country or business who is not keeping up with these advancements are doomed for failure...and unfortunately the main people who will suffer are the blind citizens who follow their governments or syndicates over the cliff of tyranny and socialism...while all depending on oil.

I look forward to a brighter day when oil and gas do not control so much of our economies or attention of our political leaders.  I look forward to cleaner forms of energy that will reduce or even eliminate the cost of heating or cooling our homes or running our transportation vehicles.  I look forward to seeing new energy companies being twice the size of oil companies. And more than anything, I look forward to seeing my energy dollars supporting my own country's economy instead of building kingdoms in the deserts of Dubai or Yemen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pros of Social Media

Is this era of rising “mega data” and issues about privacy and control of our identity in the online world…we are experiencing rising concerns about our uses of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and the like. While I think many of these concerns are valid, I also don’t think we should “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.  There are many things we can do to control access to our online identities, photos, posts and dialogues.  Most people simply don’t take the time to manage their “privacy settings” in Google, Facebook, etc. which ends up making them more likely victims of the downside of the internet world.  Most people should do more to limit access to their personal details in the online space…including myself.

The other danger in social media is letting technology and machines take too much control of our lives. I get concerned with the growing obesity in our society much of which can be attributed  (besides over-sizing our meals) to many stationary hours sitting in front of computers or on our cellphones. I also get concerned that I see a lot of vacant playgrounds and neighborhood streets in America anymore.  It seems kids don’t “go out and play”, ride bikes or have neighborhood pickup baseball, football or hockey games like we did in my childhood. It tells me that a majority of kids are spending way too much time on computer games and indoor, solo activities that can stifle their personal, social and physical development. This will affect the balance of souls in our future society.

That being said, I must balance this theme with some positive observations of what social media via the internet has brought to our lives.  When used effectively and with discipline, social media brings significant advantages to our short lives. When we maintain balance and controls, I think there are more pros than cons to participating in social media.  Here are a few advantages I have observed:

Ø  The primary advantage of social media is that it has helped overcome the fact that our society is more mobile and spread out than it was just 50 years ago.  There have been huge changes in what percentages of people leave their hometowns and immediate families in pursuit of adventure, careers, etc.  People change jobs and geographic location more than six times as much as they did 50 years ago. In those days, family members that moved away were often disconnected without communication for weeks, months or even years at a time. I remember my grandparent’s generation where their siblings were spread out all over North America. If they lived far from aging parents, they were lucky to talk to each other a few times per year.  Long distance phone was very expensive and even unavailable for many.  Written letters were the mode of the day, but often the working class was too busy surviving to have the time or energy to write.  Nowadays we simply check and write emails to each other…many or us every day…to those family and friends closest to us, even the ones who live locally near us.

Ø  One of the fastest growing demographics of internet use is the elderly. This is because retirees and the like have more flex time to peruse the internet and communicate with each other or keep in touch with their children and grandchildren.  While my parental units were all very reluctant to adopt and use computers in their lives as working adults…I doubt they would now want to go back to pre-internet isolation or simply depending on TV and radio for their news and information.  The internet along with social media opens up the whole world to anyone equally who wants to pursue it, and while there is often overflow of information and data to consider…we can learn to use our computers intelligently and not get caught up in all the frivolity or falsehood that is available on it.  It’s all how we use it…or not…that makes the difference in social media.

Ø  There are many people who for whatever reasons seem very inhibited expressing themselves in person. So many of us develop inhibitions to social interaction based on self-consciousness, fear of rejection or low self-esteem.   Yet I have noticed some people in my circle of family and friends deemed too bashful or timid to share their lives really “come out of the closet” via written messages and/or photos on social media.  It is obvious they want to know and be known…but somehow it just seems easier for many to let their hair down via their computer and social media. Social media can be very revealing of our humanity….and in most cases I embrace this new openness to our thoughts and feelings in society.  Of course, I draw the line at needing to know what time you went to the bathroom today, and some people’s anger and venom is best saved for a mental health specialist than thrown out there into cyberspace for everyone to shudder and run away from. But all in all, most of the people I am friends with online are balanced and use the media positively.  People that we don’t want to deal with…well, we can just delete them from our list and it is not a crime.

Ø  There are many advantages of social media I could mention such as more easily sharing information on where to buy things or finding out how to do things from the simple to the complicated.  But the most impactful thing to my thinking is that social media helps us in a short time keep up and learn from so many people in our lives in a way that would never have been possible just 20 years ago.  While it can be overwhelming if we let it, it seems mostly good that I am able to observe hundreds of people’s lives via social media at a depth and volume that would be impossible in person.  Life is just too short to have all the conversations with all the people we might like to have…but somehow…depending on our capacity…we can share, observe, empathize, applaud, encourage, and spread positivism and love to a much wider range of people than we could previously with our geographic and time limitations.

Much in our lives has been accelerated because of technology, and while it is still important to “smell the roses” and enjoy a personal embrace or intimacy of a kiss…social media is bringing to many a whole new level of interconnection and mind-share that was previously impossible to accomplish.  Many of our lives are fuller and richer for it, even in the reality of our growing solitude.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Governance of BitCoin and other "Crypto Currencies"

This week the USA arrested two heavy guys involved in the proliferation of the global phenomenon called "BitCoin". The compliance and AML (Anti Money Laundering) industry is all in a tizzy on what we do about regulating and controlling "BitCoins".

We must stop seeing BitCoin as a "currency" and see it more as a global "exchange" for ALL currencies. Think Commodities Exchange of currencies, but no metals or hard assets required. And just like the Internet, no ONE country is going to control or regulate this crypto exchange. It will be more about a global forum that can PARTICIPATE in issuing and regulating TRANSACTIONS, not the BitCoins themselves. It is not a fiat currency to control or manipulate. It is totally about being a FREE MARKET exchange...the only one existing in the world today. Why is everyone so paranoid about freedom of markets or exchange? I think we know why.

As for AML and compliance...this exchange is perfect for leaving a digital trail forever versus cash currencies that do not. Perfect for legally proving payment sources, legal or non. Legalities of such transactions are not based on the money or exchange itself, but the legality of the actual products or services it acquires. Instead of prosecuting money exchange, we must start prosecuting the products or acts the exchange represents...IF they need to be prosecuted.

Small example...prostitution, the worlds oldest profession. Is it illegal to have sex, or is it only illegal to pay for it? In some jurisdictions it is totally legal. In others it is legal to prostitute, but not to be a customer. In others, both provider and customer go to jail. But is the issue the money? Why?

If it is about taxes...well those issues have to be taken up in each jurisdiction separately, but getting the global financial ecosystem to enforce any one country's citizen obligations or local tax codes is totally unrealistic. Won't happen in general.

Finally, as to the BitCoin executive is my understanding they were arrested for using BitCoins to pay for illegal activities in the USA. Not for simply using BitCoins. Without knowing if they are guilty or not, this is a prime example of the issue. Even if they had exchanged paper greenbacks for their purposes...the legal issue is the same. Its not about the money.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Future Shocks...

As I often do at the first part of a new year...I have been thinking a lot about what the next year...or two or three...will bring.  Not only for me, but for the whole world.

The old adage "may you live in interesting times" is for sure appropriate to these times. Call it the "technology age", "information age" or what have you, there can be no doubt that this past 50+ years of living has us experiencing the fastest period of development and change mankind has ever experienced in such a relatively short period.  This next 50 years is going to go at warp speed in comparison.  Yet, the question can easily come to mind how that impacts the whole of mankind and whether it will be positive change or not.

These times are for me a complete contradiction in many ways.  On one hand a few people are advancing and changing the world via technology and science like never before. On the other hand, the majority of the "huddled masses" are being left behind...perhaps not in modernization or consumerism...but for sure in advancement of reason, intelligence and economic participation in these advances. There is such a contradiction between the technology age in development and the senseless wars our governments and religions have dragged us into. It would seem most of the people in our world are either religious fundamentalists, terrorists, or criminals based on their use of or participation in drug use or drug running.  In reaction to all these "fundamental" concerns, we have allowed our governments to legislate morality based on archaic, patriarchal religious convictions...and have taken on the mantra of "live and let die" versus live and let live.

Here we have all the money, food, information, cell phones and computers that we could need...enough for every human breathing on the earth today...yet a vast majority of humans live in dire poverty and ignorance. It seems obvious to me that this poverty and ignorance has been programmed into the human psyche to the extent that one almost loses hope at the survival of our species.  A very few of us have developed technologies and weapons of mass destruction enough to wipe the earth off the face of the cosmos. We spend billions on medicine and curing diseases, but we spend relatively nothing on cleaning up our environment or the air we breath and water we drink that continues to bring us death and destruction.

It might be a good thing we are killing ourselves off via our ill advised consumptions because our booming populations, especially among the poor, needy and uneducated majorities...are overwhelming the supply side of our productivity.  Its not that we CAN'T keep up with demands of our global masses...but the few who CAN provide are not willing to do so because that would mean "living for others" versus living for ourselves.

It is another perplexity that we seem to have so many "do gooders" in our religious and government institutions...yet we don't seem to make a dent on sustaining advancement of the masses in things like self sustained economics, true education and productivity.  As I have alluded to, we have enough food and money to go around in the world.  What we have here Dr. Watson is a massive problem of "distribution", and if we don't fix this problem relatively soon, our world will definitely experience some setbacks that will cost millions or billions of lives.  I think there are many forces among us who think this would be a good thing...getting rid of a few million or billion of "them".  It would also seem to me that many governments in the world are purposely perpetuating the disenfranchisement of the majority from competing or thriving with the same benefits as the elite.

I don't know for sure...but I am beginning to see a connection in all of this to "natural selection" via a new technological format.  As I have read many futurists over the decades such as Alvin Toffler (Future Shock), Ray Kurzweil (Singularity) and a few others of modern persuasions...I totally see this huge chasm growing globally between the very few who have the minds, money and freedom to reach infinity...and the majority in our world who do not have a chance in hell to participate in the benefits of technology to any great extent.  Oh sure...we are getting cellphones to EVERYBODY, rich poor, black and white, Jew Arab and Christian. Yet, these devises and all this information is being manipulated and used in such a way as to keep people's minds in the dark ages of repression and guilt manipulation or controlling their every financial move or transaction.  We just don't seem to be able to get our minds out of the emotional stag-mire of mysticism, false hopes and promises of some magic solution that will just magically make everyone whole. Most peoples minds are simply wrapped around fatalistic/futile mind sets that have everyone programmed and the "powers that be".  And I'm not talking about god or the devil.

Ok...these have been my dark thoughts on status of the human condition.  Now, based on my belief in "cause and effect", I throw out here some "Future Shock"  predictions that I think will happen in my lifetime...and especially if I live to the age our intelligent futurists of today are telling us we can do via the new bio sciences of our times...

1) The continued escalation of religious and racial intolerance, exercised through governments and their militaries who control hoarding and starving of the undesired poor, will continue to escalate to a point where "weapons of mass destruction" will be used. Unfortunately they may be used by governments against their own citizens as well as against irrational tyrannical governments of a decaying old world order. I'm not saying by whom or when...but so far man has found a way or a reason to use every weapon he has developed. It is not going to stop any time soon...and not before millions or billions of people are wiped out in some parts of the world.  I also believe governments are capable of using plagues and disease to surreptitiously kill off undesired populations in the world.  Technology and distribution of it can be a two edged sword. Ok...that was a BIG one...
2) Out of the ashes of this destruction, globalization will continue to march forward. Technology advancements will allow an elite few to live totally isolated from these horrific events.  Many people will choose to explore and live in "space" versus stay on earth and try and sort out the human condition.  Some advantaged people will live to be hundreds of years old...if not forever at some point...due to science's potential when unfettered by human mysticism or lack of finances to sustain life.
3) Money in nationalized currencies as we know it today will no longer exist.  We will exchange values for our goods, products and services with digital "crypto" currencies that will be moderated and controlled via a new world order of governance and economic controls.  We will still have local, state and even national governments as countries will continue to develop around geographical, ethnic and yes religious/philosophical shared interests.  All of these will have to come under some global governance controls either BEFORE we have world war 3, or after all the dust has settled from that future short and devastating war.  I don't think global currency will wait until that war...but it very much could help spark it as many governments and masses of populations will not like their positions after the "reset" of economic financial valuations based on real future money systems.
4) One of the "saviors" of mankind would be the arrival of "singularity" that Ray Kurzweil is a key evangelist of...that point in the near future when the human mind can be hooked up to or actually BE a computer. When we humans can think and reason like a computer...and if it also connects us to a rational kindness and sense of inclusion that I think is natural within most species of the animal kingdom somewhere in the brain...that intellectual power will help us solve the issues of distribution in our world.  It will help us solve population control, poverty and hunger issues.  It will help us more quickly bring educational equality to all people of all races, creeds and backgrounds.
5) This new singularity will then bring potential for a future world government that will truly be "of, by and for the people".  ALL people. Reduced language and cultural barriers will allow people to truly communicate with wisdom and understanding each other. With technology bringing the potential for all to have access to information in real time and the potential to vote in real time on every issue we deal with as a society or individual, versus leaving things in the hands of the obviously flawed process of "representative" government...we should begin to experience real autonomy and independence of mind and spirit that can continue to develop us into gods instead of cavemen or sniveling idiots. 

When all of this happens, we can truly exchange our swords for plowshares...or better yet...for the latest computers and robots that will run the plows of production. I for one believe we can be happier WITHOUT money, politicos, borders and controllers of behaviors.  When every mind is free to know and understand its potential...and find meaning and productivity in a lifespan of perhaps hundreds of years...this is when life experience, arts and sciences can truly take man to the higher potential some of us now strive for. No one goes hungry. Everyone has meaning based on the unleashed power and potential of. their mind and participation in society...a GLOBAL society. We may not ALL get there...but this is MY dream...and I don't think it unrealistic.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014...Happy New Year

Here are a few of my personal "resolutions" for 2014...

-I resolve to work SMARTER and more focused this year based on all I learned last year...
-I resolve to take better care of my physical losing another 15 pounds watching my diet on a more consistent basis and exercising more.
-I resolve to write a book this year...biggest challenge being which of three concepts I have should I start with?
-I resolve to get more sun (vitamin E) this spending more time outdoors than just cooped up indoors in front of this computer screen.
-I resolve to finish my band recording project this year including some original tunes...
-I resolve to cherish my life partner and pay more attention to her this year since she is the one who has to put up with me the most and gives the most back to me in smiles and devotion.
-I resolve to spend more time listening to my elders and capturing their stories and wisdom.
-I resolve to use another 10% more of my brain potential this year by focusing on what is important, positive and productive instead of wasting time on past disappointments or people who do not share my values.
-Finally...I resolve to write more pointed blogs while attempting to reduce the amount of words it takes me to express them. :) Basically...improve my craft.