Don’t Get Burned

Fire is raging down towards my mountain home. The Rough Fire has consumed 120,000 acres and is proving hard to control. Five years of drought and a little bit of lightening have created a fire that is jumping the clearings made by the fire fighters. The assigned fire service commander has said…

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The Whites of My White Eyes

It was probably the first Republican debate that was the final nail. Or maybe it is the resurgence of trouble in the black inner cities. Don’t know. But I needed a pause for refreshment.

As the American Empire circles the drain, the cacophony of trashy language and a trashy culture grows too loud to bear at times.

Maybe it was the “INSERT YOUR RACE HERE people matter” lines that never seem to quit. Maybe it was people going postal over the death of poor Cecil, a lion. But something pushed me over the edge today.

Sometimes I have to withdraw into my own little cultural cocoon to regain my sanity. So I retreat to my race. Or spend a few moments watching buildings blow up.

Yes, I’m hopelessly racist. I checked in the mirror and I’m still bagged in a white wrapper. Albeit it’s getting pretty saggy and wrinkled. We white folks don’t age well. And, I’ll admit to thinking like a lot of white guys do and seeing in the world through the eyes of whiteness.

No, I don’t consider anyone less than human because of the color of their skin. Nor do I think of them as less than the very image of God, no matter what language they speak or how they celebrate their holidays. My Lord and Savior occupied the body of a very non-white person, and a finer man has never lived. So hang a piñata up and swing at it, or sing Kawanza songs. I might not find either very interesting but I don’t think any less of you for engaging in your preferred customs. Provide me a couple of drinks and I might swing at the piñata, too. Or dance to the Mariachi music.

My racism is the simple recognition that there are different races and cultures. And while the individuals are just that, the collective group is open to judgement. As you will and for what you will.

Most of my kind have become the official and popular target of abuse Everything that doesn’t fit the progressive vision of world utopia gets blamed on me and my ancestors. Especially the males, for we are apparently an abusive and privileged class. Or so I am told, frequently.

But all the efforts to bash the white guy and turn society into one gray mass have failed. All the diversity programs in the world has done nothing more than accentuate the differences. Inclusion programs have failed—black and latino Americans are making it clear that they want to dorm together and have their own graduation ceremonies at the colleges and universities. Gee, make special “race” days and speak incessantly about how important their particular races are and then wonder why they would rather be around their own kind? And more power to them.

It’s not an issue, really. In fact, it should be encouraged if only because it’s natural. People gravitate to the groups they feel more comfortable with. And always will.

As interesting as I find other races and cultures, I haven’t found one I’d rather spend most of my time with. Just not as comfortable as I am with people from my own background. Not that they are not welcome or that I don’t enjoy people from other races and cultures.

It’s natural to find some races of people more attractive than others, and there’s no accounting for taste. And it comes and goes with the time. We are passing through a period in which America has been attracted to the races of the Far East. Asian news reporters are popping up all over the place and far outnumber the percentage of them in the population. Apparently a good portion of viewers who are not Asians find them to be attractive newscasters. Or maybe it’s the increasing fascination with all things Asian.

A similar phenomenon has been going in Asia for decades, as orientals seek plastic surgery to make their faces look more Western, as in white. Now this ought to get your attention—it’s happening in reverse on the West Coast as California plastic surgeons report Western-looking clients wanting their faces to look more Asian.

I’m not getting surgery anytime soon. I’m not a great-looking white guy but I would make a horrible-looking Asian.

And I’m proud of the white race. It’s contributed some amazing things to the world as we know it. In fact, most of the items that make your life as modern and comfortable as it is today were invented by some white person. Most of the so-called miracles of modern medicine and science are thanks to primarily to white people. Industrialization, the power that turns all such ideas into usable products in quantities that really mean something and at prices we can afford is the development of pale-skinned males. No offense to the ladies intended.

I mean no offense to anyone who is not white, of course, and I am thankful to the men and women of other races, indeed to entire races and cultures that have contributed to the welfare of all humanity. Great cultures have arisen in parts of the world I will likely never see. And my life is better for it. I’m married to a wonderful person of a different race and culture. Many of her qualities are connected to the fact that she was raised and educated by a very different, but valuable culture.

Historical Mid-Eastern buildings draw my eye. Japanese gardens are mesmerizingly beautiful. The food of India is incredible. But nothing beats a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice-cream.

For today, I’m resting in my whiteness and celebrating the pale-skinned, freckled, hairy, over-sized humans who spread through Europe. They left behind some pretty remarkable things that sooth my poor white soul. Like the Blue Danube Waltz. Played in a setting of extraordinary beauty and elegance and danced to by men and women in dignified attire.

So, for today, take your diversity and stow it. This over-privileged white male is lost in some the most beautiful music this world has ever known. Courtesy of some European white guy named Strauss. Sure, I’ll be glad to listen to a bit of your ethnic Inuit drum songs afterwards, although I’ll reserve the right to change the station after a bit.

Jehovah Has Heard

Evil seems to be reigning unchecked in the United States. If one week’s news form the nation’s capital isn’t enough to shock, the next week brings a heftier dose. Secret legislation being passed by those we entrust to represent us is superseded by the the latest tyrannical abuse of power…

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Everything is Awesome!

(While it is humorous is a perverse way, the driver of the powerboat in the video and several passengers suffered some real injuries. Among them a ruptured disc, broken back, a couple of shattered eye sockets, a broken leg, and a broken wrist. It could have been much worse.)

Your pension fund is fine. Your IRA or 401/403 is way up from 2008. And despite the naysayers and doom doctors, the stock market has managed to show remarkable gains during a time of a very sluggish economy.

That’s what we want to believe. And the trends have been solid—even when bad news about the economy comes out, the markets climb to another high. If this isn’t bull market, what is it?

A bubble, to be precise. Bull markets are based upon strong economies. Not economies floating along on printed money and dirt-cheap interest rates. Sure, trends are great. Until they aren’t.

Bubbles are not the product of markets, but of bankers, governments and printing presses. Think of the real estate market in 2008.

If you are old enough to have seen your investments in the stock market plod along since the mid-90’s or earlier, you also are old enough to have watched them lose half their value. The bubbles popped. Several times.

But what’s a guy from Main Street supposed to do to survive in a game run by Wall Street? The interest rates are so low, well below the cost of living, that saving money is simply guaranteeing that it will lose its purchasing power.

The game is rigged. Governments use plunge protection teams to step in and support downward moves in the market. The big banks have been caught red-handed manipulating the currency, commodities, and stock markets. Without any serious consequences of course.

So we all know the markets are anything but free. And, anything but regulated by laws that mean anything. But what else can we do?

Our employers generally offer plans that are good at one thing only—enriching the investment firms that run them. They get paid regardless of how the investments perform. And if the employer is offering any sort of a matching investment, it seems foolish to turn it down. And if it was so risky, why is the employer offering me free money to invest?

Recent investigations have caught the major banks red-handed committing fraud in the money, stocks, and commodities market. Consequences? If any, only some fines that made their crime very profitable. Heads don’t roll, anymore, except for the little ones.

Financial data put out by the government and dutifully reported by the presstitutes, says that unemployment keeps getting better, inflation is negligible, and the cost-of-living is doing just fine, thank you. Of course, they change the rules by which they arrive at the figures, as needed. And nobody notices the revisions they post a year later, completing negating or reversing their prior figures.

There is comfort in believing the delusion. Everything is awesome! And if not exactly awesome, its going to be OK. And if not OK, rest assured that we’ve got it all under control.

Trust your government? The same government that refused to stop spending more than it takes in and has driven up the national debt to levels not seen since WWII? Trust the same government that has lied about everything from Obamacare to Benghazi? A Congress that passes secretive bills that their constituents are clearly against? A Congress and DOJ that, even if it investigates, never prosecutes?

But most of us do. If we don’t exactly trust, we have hope. Hope that someone in that monstrosity of bureaucrats and regulations is looking out for us.

It’s in our nature to expect things to continue as is. To not expect really bad things to happen. Regardless of the chance of a very bad year of weather, farmers continue to plant. Regardless of the high level of divorce, couples still get married. Regardless of the chances that we might not get a job with a degree, we choose to go to college. To do otherwise would be to simply give up on life.

And that’s why most of us are woefully unprepared when things go wrong. It’s not in our nature to expect, and therefore, prepare for the inevitable avalanche after a long period of snow. For good or bad, right or wrong, it’s who we are.

That’s why we don’t like to think about or anticipate what is coming in the markets. It’s going to be different this time.

powerboatedit

Like it or not, we are all occupants in that Falcon 38 powerboat cruising way too fast for the conditions. Our government and bankers are at the helm, telling us by their words and actions that things are fine. Print money? No problem–hey, nothing has happened so far. And if we see a wake ahead, will just throw the throttle all the way down and print some more!  Enjoy the ride and hope for the best.

Or be smart and take seat and grab the rails.

It brings to mind my own hard lesson in the top hatch of an armored personnel carrier. Along for a guest ride, I took the position in the top hatch, behind the machine gun mount. The driver set off on a course of sharp turns, mowing over trees, jumping across low spots and otherwise obliterating anything in the way. I soon learned that no matter how firmly one grasped the rails, the human body gets turned into a loose cannon. Thankfully, all that I suffered was a bruises and feeling like the ready fool that I was.

Our economy cannot continue on its speedy course of rapid debt accumulation, easy money, and a corrupt government that refuses to hold criminal bankers and corporations accountable. Debt never evaporates.

The economy, as we now know it, no longer has anything to do with capital—the use of saved money to invest in and grow business and create jobs. It is now based on credit. You and I buy much of what we need on credit. And everyone up the chain does the same. It’s the  J. Wellington Wimpy economy of “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger, today.”

A credit-based economy is not normal. That’s why the Popeye character Wimpy’s proposition to eat today and pay you tomorrow was so funny–back then. The idea of extending credit for something other than an absolute necessity wasn’t common amongst past generations. Today we just don’t get the humor. It’s our way of life.

Credit is based on faith—believing that the person you issued the credit to will be good to pay the money back. Never in history has there been an unbroken run of faith. Eventually, somebody decides to pull their stuff out of the fire, because only those who leave the burning building first, make it out with their money.

Who is going to pull out first? And when will it happen? Nobody can say. The bigger concern is not when or why, but do you want to have your future riding on the outcome?

If history tells us that debt never evaporates but must and will be accounted for, it also tells us other things that are prone to happen when markets collapse. Governments that are broke raise taxes. That pension you are counting on will be smaller than you think, due to taxes. After all, when people aren’t employed or making enough money to tax, it has to come from somewhere else. Pensions are ripe plums to politicians.

That IRA or 401/403 account that you have is owned by the government, thanks to the fact that it contains deferred taxes. You’ll find out who really owns it when they try to fiddle with the contents. Either through taxes or by regulating in what you can invest in the future. Like government bonds, when nobody else is willing to buy them. In the worse case, they have the power to roll over your tax-deferred savings in the touted Guaranteed Government Savings Account, a vehicle some have propose to provide the money needed to bail out the Social Security system, which is fast going broke.

And if Europe is an example, we can count on laws that will legalize banks raiding part of your deposits to cover their losses. A bail-in. After all, we will be assured, they are too big to fail. Our dear politicians will rob us for our own good.

Doom and gloom? Paranoia? I hope so; it would be good to be wrong, or at least not experience what is likely coming in my lifetime. But is it wise to gamble the only savings we have for our future by betting on the integrity and abilities of a governments that have proven they are incapable of and unwilling to balance their checkbooks? To trust politicians who will be long gone before the consequences of the laws they pass come to fruition?

One morning we are all going to wake up to a different world. Life is like that. Perhaps the worst collapses will come suddenly. Or they may play out gradually over a longer period of time. But history is clear on this—a system based on credit and debt doesn’t last. Not for individuals or governments. Maybe we should pull our irons out of the fire before it does.