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Archive for September, 2009

It was inevitable.  For the past forty or fifty years a bulge in the U.S. population, known as the Baby Boomers (because they were born in the aftermath of World War II) created a moving spike in the U.S. economy. This huge group of people needed more schools, and more schools were built.  They needed more cars, and more cars were built.  They needed more houses, and more houses were built.  The economic expansion of the past forty years probably owes as much to the presence of this market as the effects of the Second World War itself.  However, as an ancient philosopher once said, “This too shall pass”.  And so it is. The age of the Boomers is coming to an end; they are beginning to retire and exit the productive economy.

And that is the problem.  As more and more Boomers retire every day and apply for the Social Security benefits they have earned, the Social Security system is beginning to draw down its reserves.  Like any good pyramid scheme, Social Security depends upon an ever growing number of contributors in order to pay out its dividends.  It isn’t designed to cope with a population bubble – at least not the backside of the bubble, which is where we are now.  Social Security is going into the red. More and more Boomers are about to be collecting Social Security while fewer and fewer people are paying into it.

This, however, isn’t the only problem.  Think about health care. Many Boomers will be looking at Medicare as their source for health insurance – and why not? They paid into it for most of their lives, now it’s time to collect, right?  Yes, but.  You see, Medicare is another government Ponzi scheme, and it only works when the number of contributors is increasing.  Boomers, who can look forward to a life expectancy much greater than their parents, may face a future where they have to get by on meager Social Security payouts and meager health benefits.  The generation that brought us the mass demonstrations against the Vietnam war, the mass protests against racial discrimination, and the sexual revolution are unlikely to take this lying down, especially since they are much more physically fit than their parents were at this age.  Expect to hear from them.

Which brings me to another point.  Many of the Boomers who are applying for Social Security are doing so because they are being forced out of the job market – a job market that has become extremely tight due to the Global Recession.  Even before the recession began many employers had clandestine (and illegal) programs in place to get rid of the highly paid Boomers so they could replace them with lowly paid young people who had just graduated from universities.  That’s just how our capitalistic system works.  It happens to everyone when they get older, you get moved out – it’s nothing personal.  In a strong economy, the Boomers who were forced into early retirement from their jobs might have just gone somewhere else – but not today.  There is no place for many of them to go.  So…it’s time to kick back, relax, and collect Social Security and Medicare benefits! The problems is that it won’t last long – certainly not until the Boomers reach their 90’s or even 100 years old.

If we had a robust economy and more enlightened capitalists – the Captains of our Industry, we would find that the economy would adapt and jobs would appear for these redundant Boomers, and they would still be productive, paying taxes and not collecting benefits.  But our economy is anything but robust and our Captains of Industry are mostly devoid of imagination.  The result is a looming crisis that any half-intelligent person can see coming, which explains why it is invisible to our government.  Wait a while – maybe a year or two – then watch what happens. We’ll have a sudden crisis because we don’t have anymore money for Social Security or Medicare and besides that with the Boomers no longer paying massive income taxes from their high-paying jobs we’ll have a huge run up in our national debt, which will devalue the dollar, and thus plunge the nation into a new financial crisis.

And it will all be a big surprise as the Baby Boomers churn by, like a gigantic supertanker. The economy of the nation will heave sickeningly and maybe even capsize as it is caught by surprise by another enormous financial tsunami – the wake the Boomers leave as they pass by.

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In 1776, a group of revolutionary minded people, many of whom were Freemasons, created the United States of America.  This new country was to be a break from the past. The leaders of the movement: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, and many more were Freemasons.  They were informed and inspired by some of the tenets of the Freemasons, tenets that were at odds with the established manner of world governments at that time.  Many of the governments of various European countries had a long established and close relationship with one branch or another of the Christian church.  Most of the governments had kings or queens, whose right to rule was based upon their ancestry.  The American revolutionaries had a different concept in mind – a democratic, elected  government that had no association with any religion.  It was a daring concept, and a complete break from the European view of government.  These Freemasons even documented this break from traditional government when they made the Great Seal of the United States and when they printed the one dollar bills that we have today. One each of these bills are printed the words: Novus Ordo Seclorum, i.e. A New Order of (0r for) the Ages.

The New order that was founded by these Freemasons created a Republic where the principal ideas and visions were centered on individual liberty.  A key concept was that the government was not made up of the elite or the wealthy or the influential or the religious leaders. The government was changed regularly, based upon a schedule of elections, and anyone could become a member of the government – as long as they could convince their friends and neighbors to vote for them.  This concept of a republic also implied something else, there would be a distance, a division, between the will of the wealthy and the will of the government, i.e. the will of the people.

Today, as our economy lurches towards a dubious recovery from a worldwide economic meltdown, we can observe that there has been a key change in the Novus Ordo that was created by the Freemasons.  There is no longer a distance between the government and the wealthy. Indeed, it was the closeness of the wealthy to the government that directly led to the meltdown.  It was the money in the pockets of the our governmental representatives that led to the relaxation or the complete annulment of laws that had protected us from nefarious economic practices by the banking industry.  It was the government’s Securities and Exchange Commission that looked the other way when Bernie Madoff ran his gigantic Ponzi scheme.  Over the years, the wealthy had established a cozy relationship with the representatives of our Republic – all for the purpose of gaining more money for themselves and less for the average citizen.

Today, the wealthy have almost a stranglehold on our government.  Some would say it is more than that.  They say we have an oligarchy – a situation where hidden, wealthy people rule through a puppet government and all laws are made to benefit the small, wealthy elite.  All you need to do is look.  Our American companies have become multinational. Our once good paying jobs have been moved to other countries where the cost of labor is much less.  Our government has “reformed” our tax laws allowing millionaires and billionaires to pass on their fortunes from one generation to the next while not a cent of tax is imposed on this transfer of wealth.  The wealthy have used the government to create income tax cuts for themselves and income tax increases for the middle and lower class.

The New Order created by the Freemasons is fast dying.  Today, our multinational companies, owned by the wealthy, fabricate our goods in China- creating no jobs for American workers – except those who work for Wal-Mart.  Our multinational companies pay little or no tax to our country, because they are officially located in the Bahamas or some other idiotic legal location.  And our government just winks and says, “OK”.  Our country has been transformed without our even realizing it.  We have a new world order that we never saw coming.  In this new world order, it is the wealthy who rule and it is the poor who pay taxes.  In this new world order everyone can vote, but it hardly matters who you vote for. Money flows like water from the mighty Mississippi into the pockets of our Congressional representatives who pretend to ask for our opinions but then vote the way they are told.

The Novus Ordo Seclorum of the Freemasons has gone, and we didn’t even see it go.  We can only sit and watch, dazed, as the government tires to stimulate a dying economy, knowing in our hearts that we are only surviving on financial life support.   How can our economy ever rise again when the wealthy have sent all our jobs to China?  How can our children ever compete again when our schools can’t compete with those in Malaysia or Norway?  How can we lead and inspire the world when so much of our television and radio news is now filled with the lies of the wealthy media owners, propaganda, and gross distortions of truth?

The new order of the world is here.  It is the multinational companies of the world who now make the economic rules. It is China that will be the world’s supplier of almost everything anyone needs.  We are to be the consumers, borrowing money from banks in order to live – while living forever in debt.  Meanwhile the people of the wealthy class return to their rightful place: Rulers of the World.  And the elected leaders of our Republic grovel before them and do their bidding – all for a pocketful of change.

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Of course they are, and therein lies the problem for the U.S.  A great many of the world’s multinational companies were at one time American companies.  They were located in America, they manufactured their goods in America, they hired American workers to make those goods, and they sold their goods in America.  Not any more.  It’s hard to find a large, completely American company these days – there are better profits to be made elsewhere.  So, the question that needs to be asked is this: are these formerly American companies helping or hurting America?  Does America benefit from their existence or does their existence harm America?

If we go back to the beginning, it is easy to see that the multinational companies arose out of two desires on the part of the owners: 1) a larger market and 2) a cheaper labor force.  Fifty or a hundred years ago this desire was satisfied by the movement of American companies from the industrialized north to the agrarian south.  Everything was still in the family, so to speak, and because these companies were still entirely contained within the boundaries of the U.S. no one could say they were un-American.  On the other hand, there were a lot of confused people in the north staring at vacant factory buildings, slowly being covered by weeds and blowing dirt, who were wondering only one thing: “Now what do we do?”

In time, the costs of labor in the American south became a burden to the business owners and they began looking for other, even less expansive ways to manufacture their goods.  Sure, they turned to mechanization, and that certainly eliminated a lot of jobs – thus increasing profits.  But machines can be expensive too.  And they break.  And they get outdated.  So the business owners began to look further afield and soon saw that there was a semi-infinite supply of extremely cheap labor in the developing world. These people would work for next to nothing compared to American workers. All that was needed was some sort of legal framework to enable the companies to exploit this newfound source of labor.  In time, with the help of the U.S. government obligingly creating favorable tax legislation and foreign governments doing the same, a new mechanism was created where companies that were based in the U.S. could manufacture their goods someplace else, but still sell them in the U.S.  Of course their American workers lost their jobs as a result, and therefore couldn’t buy their products – but that wasn’t a problem, there were plenty of other Americans who had jobs, and they could buy the foreign made products.  And they did – gleefully – because the products cost much less than they used to.  The company owners had passed on the savings to the customers (well, some of it anyway, they of course pocketed a lot of it too).

It wasn’t long before a lot of other companies caught on and a slew of multinationals were born, giving rise to the Celtic Tiger in Ireland, the Asian Tigers in the Southeast Asia, and the Hidden Dragon/Crouching Lion we call The People’s Republic of China – or just China Inc for short.  Everybody got into the act and what had once been American companies established roots all over the world.  And then a transformation happened. These corporations began to look at themselves and found a new identity – they weren’t American, nor were they Irish, nor were they Chinese – they weren’t anything except corporations.  And with this internal revelation they realized that they owed nothing to any country.  They no longer had any allegiance to any flag.  They had no responsibility for any particular population group.  Their only “raison d’etre” was to make money – profit actually – for their owners, and they did.  Lots of it.

It is now becoming clear that all the favorable tax treatment the multinationals have received from the U.S. and other countries has been shortsighted.  Sure, there was a temporary benefit for a lot of people when U.S. jobs were exported. A lot of stuff became cheaper to buy for those Americans who still had jobs, but eventually the whole thing caught up with us. We’ve exported way too many jobs and now we can’t afford to buy even the cheap imported stuff that comes in.  So we use our credit cards. And we get home equity loans. And we play financial roulette, buying and flipping houses.  Now, as our economy lies a smoking ruin, we look to the multinationals for help.  Will they hire us?  Will they create new jobs for Americans?  Hardly.  These stateless entities care only for themselves; they have become parasites rather than good citizens. They are by definition un-American.

So what can be done to save the American economy from being completely bled to death by these heartless leeches?  Tax reform.  Of course that takes a government that isn’t being paid by lobbyists for the multinational corporations, but that is our only hope.  The cure for the multinational problem is simple: give huge tax incentives to truly American companies, i.e. companies that hire Americans, manufacture in America, and sell their products in America.  As for the multinationals – tax the Hell out of them.  Then send every American a check (sort of like how the State of Alaska sends every citizen of Alaska a check based upon oil company revenues) – their share of the tax on multinationals. We could then use that money to buy goods made by truly American companies.

Oh, by the way, that’ll never happen…

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Recently, U.S. authorities made preemptive arrests in five separate cases of potential terrorist attacks.  In all of these cases the alleged perpetrators are Muslims.  It most of these cases the plan was to murder innocent people.  (One plan was to attack a U.S. Marine Corps base – an incredibly stupid thing to do by a bunch of amateurs, and certainly something they would have deeply regretted if they had tried to execute their plan.) At least one of the plans was reminiscent of 9/11 in that it involved an attempt to bomb a skyscraper – full of innocent people.

In the years since 9/11 there has been a long string of murderous attacks on innocents, all performed in the name of Islam. Some of the most notable have been in Spain, England, Indonesia, and India.  The question that comes to mind is this: is the murder of innocents condoned by Islam?  I’m sure the answer is “no”.  But then I must ask why haven’t these attacks been condemned by the leaders of Islam?  The answer partly lies in the fact that there is no one leader of Islam.  Islam doesn’t have a Pope or an Archbishop of Canterbury, it doesn’t have any sort of unified structure that could produce a single voice. Islam is spread across many nations, and it appears that the leadership of Islam exists only on a local level.  I don’t know of any Islamic leader that speaks for the people of more than one country.

I can understand this.  There is no requirement for a unified Islam; in fact, there are some deep differences within Islam that seem to preclude this from ever happening.  There is nothing wrong with that; however, that is not an excuse for silence.  If the leadership of Islam is made up of tens or hundreds or even thousands of men who each are responsible for the religious instruction of their followers, the question I would put to each of them is the same: “Does Islam approve of the murder of innocents?” If the answer is no, and I am sure it is, then it is these leaders who have a moral obligation to come forth and say so.  If the voice is Islam is actually many voices, then it is time for these many voices to realize that the world needs to hear from them.  The world needs to hear that the murderers who kill and maim innocents for economic or political reasons, and yet say that are doing so in the name of the Prophet, are wrong – they do not represent Islam.

Perhaps some of the leaders of Islam have already said such things and their voices have been lost in the worldwide clamor of voices that serves as our news.  I am sure that some of these leaders must have spoken up.  Yet, their voices are not heard.  The people of America and Europe need to hear a strong voice from Islam condemning the murder of innocents, and if this voice of Islam is not strong enough it must become stronger, because the honor of Islam is at stake.  It is the cruel murderers of innocents who besmirch the name of Islam, but it is the silence of the leaders of Islam that these murderers take as approval for their heinous crimes against humanity.

Now is the time for Islam to find its strong voice and condemn all acts of murderous terrorism against innocents, for however appalling the loss of life that occurs in these attacks, even deeper damage is done to Islam itself when its many leaders remain silent.

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The world has now learned that Iran has been secretly building a second uranium enrichment facility.  There has long been suspicion that Iran’s original uranium enrichment facility could be used for making weapons grade uranium.  Iran has strongly denied that this is the case, stating that their only goal was to produce enriched uranium for nuclear power plants – a capability that is allowed by United Nations regulations.  The problem with the second facility is that it has been kept secret – and it has been under construction for years. One has to ask: if this facility is only for peaceful purposes, why has its existence been kept secret?

Recently, Iran had national elections with the result that President Ahmadinejad was reelected. As the entire world is aware, this result was strongly contested by many Iranians and protests were put down with lethal force. Many people do not believe that Ahmadinejad won.

A week ago, President Ahmadinejad made an address in Iran and stated that the Holocaust is “a lie and a mythical claim”.  Yesterday, he told NPR that it was a “historical event”.  Like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, it seems that this man’s words mean exactly what he wants them to mean.  However, for those of us less gifted, we have to deal with the commonly accepted meanings of words, and that is where we have a problem with President Ahmadinejad.  To put it kindly, we don’t seem to speak the same language.  When he says “right”, does he mean “left” or “right”?  When he says “yes”, does it mean “yes” or “no”?

Now we are dealing with a serious issue.  Is the new nuclear enrichment site in Iran intended to produce uranium for the production of electricity or for the production of a nuclear bomb?  President Obama stated that the design of the facility is such that it is not suited for producing uranium for power plants. It is instead suited for producing uranium for nuclear bombs.  Nevertheless, President Ahmadinejad insists that President Obama, along with the leaders of other European countries, are incorrect and that he is being wrongly accused of building weapons of mass destruction.

It seems only yesterday that George Bush invaded Iraq, claiming that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction.  If George was president now, what would he do? (Hint: George knew about the existence of this secret Iranian facility for a long time.  He even told Barack Obama about it shortly before Barack became president.) OK.  So now we know: George would do, and did do, nothing.  He invaded Iraq and found absolutely no trace of nuclear weapons, but he didn’t invade Iran which, for all intents and purposes, sure looks like it is developing a nuclear weapon.  The inaction of George Bush in this deadly serious matter is as hard to understand as are his foolish actions in Iraq.  However, there is one interesting thing we can deduce: it appears that George Bush and President Ahmadinejad speak the same language – a language no one else in the world understands.

Now we, and the world, now face two problems with Iran – a short term problem and a long term problem. The short term problem is: what do we do now?  Do we let Iran complete construction of a facility designed to produce nuclear bombs? Do we just blow it up? Do we make a deal, and if so, do we really trust Ahmadinejad to keep his word – whatever that means?  Assuming we get past this problem in the near term, how do we prevent this same scenario from happening again and again, not only in Iran, but is so many other countries?

Here’s a long term solution: Create a global uranium enrichment facility in a neutral country, like Switzerland.  All countries have to agree that in the future all enriched uranium for power production purposes will only be made in this single facility.  This facility will belong to the United Nations.  All existing enrichment facilities that produce uranium for  power plants will be shut down.  So what about facilities for building weapons grade uranium? No new facilities will be allowed anywhere in the world, including in those countries that already have such facilities.  It then remains for those countries (a fairly small club) that have weapons grade enrichment capability to negotiate an end to these capabilities.

It may not be a perfect solution, but at least we would know that there won’t be any new players in the nuclear weapons game, especially ones who cannot be trusted and whose words mean nothing at all.

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Defending a country against an attack by ballistic missiles is very difficult. That was clearly demonstrated during the first Gulf War when Saddam Hussein started firing ballistic missiles at Israel.  Remember that? The U.S. quickly moved in Patriot antimissile systems and they did a fine job of hitting and destroying the missiles that were in ballistic flight towards Israel.  However, the failed to stop the warheads. The warheads, which were also in ballistic flight, just kept coming and they hit their targets.  Very few, if any, warheads were intercepted.

Remember when Ronald Reagan began the “Star Wars” missile defense program?  The idea was to shoot interceptors at the (presumably Soviet) warheads while they were out in space, in ballistic flight.  It was termed “hitting a bullet with a bullet”.  It’s not an easy thing to do. The U.S. has spent a lot of time and effort to try to develop such a capability, and it appears that we now have some capability with the Navy’s new system.  This system, however, is not the one that President Bush wanted to position in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia – much to the consternation of Vladimir Putin.

The question one might ask is why was Putin so upset?  Wasn’t it a good idea to protect the U.S. from long range Iranian nuclear missiles? Maybe. The problem is that Iran has neither nuclear weapons nor long range missiles.  On the other hand, Russia does.  So what? Well, until now the nuclear peace has been preserved by a sort of understanding between the super powers. It’s called Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).  It has worked because each side knew that if it attacked the other, a return attack would be on the way in moments.  Each side would be incinerated.  Thus was the peace kept.

The problem with the Bush plan was that placing missile interceptors so close to Russia might also allow the U.S. to shoot down Russian missiles when they are launched. So what? Isn’t that good? No.  Not if we are still playing by the rules of MAD, because that might allow the U.S. to launch a first strike against Russia and then intercept the missiles that the Russians launch in reply. This would destroy the balance of power.  Clearly, this made Mr. Putin very unhappy, while President Bush pretended not to understand the issue.  This effort to place a very sophisticated missile tracking radar and interceptor missiles on the Russian border, while Iran had absolutely no capability to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. was a very dangerous and destabilizing policy.  Bush was a madman to pursue it.  What was President Bush thinking?

The latest move by President Obama to cancel President Bush’s plans and to position U.S. Navy interceptors near Iran to protect Israel makes much more sense. These are not a threat to Russia, but they do provide credible protection for Israel.  It will undoubtedly make Iran unhappy; however, if Iran truly means no harm to Israel then it won’t affect them.  On the other hand, if it defeats their plans for a massive attack on Israel, so much the better. The fact that these missiles can also provide a shield for other Middle Eastern countries is also a great, stabilizing benefit.

Besides the benefits that will accrue to peace loving countries in the Middle East, President Obama’s move will also pave the way for the restoration of more friendly ties with Russia, a move that will certainly be welcomed by the sane citizens of America.  Until President Bush made the awful mistake of attempting to place short range interceptors on Russia’s border, the world was enjoying a relative period of peace and detante – not good news for the defense contractors and their lobbyists, and the U.S. lawmakers who get rich on the “contributions” from the lobbyists, but good news for everyone else in the world.

President Obama made a very sensible decision based upon the scientific facts and capabilities of all the countries involved.  He also made a courageous move towards creating a friendly relationship with Russia.  Remember when we were all afraid of “Red China” and the possibility of nuclear war with that country?  It wasn’t all that long ago.   Now China is a major trading partner of the U.S.  Our economy probably couldn’t function without our interaction with China.  Perhaps the same thing may happen some day with Russia too. At least this is a start.

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The Post Office expects to lose $7,000,000,000 dollars this year.  Actually, the Post Office isn’t losing this money, you are.  That’s because you are going to pay for it – not in stamps, but in taxes. So, whether you use the Post Office or not, you’re still going to pay.  So why is the Post Office losing money? It’s because its business model is out of date.  The Post Office is still operating on a business plan that was developed over 200 years ago, i.e. delivering and picking up mail from every home and business in America.  Not only does the Postman make his rounds in sleet and snow and rain and whatever, he also makes his rounds whether you have mail or not. And that is the real problem.  The Post Office is constrained to visit every address every day and that costs a lot of money, and this model is a real money loser when there is less and less letter mail to deliver and fewer packages to deliver too.

The number of letters is decreasing because so much correspondence is now carried out via email.  The number of packages has decreased because other services like FEDEX and UPS do a much better job of getting them there on time.  So where does that leave the Post Office?  Is there a future for this venerable institution?  No, there isn’t.  It has become outdated.  Just as the print publishing industry is fast heading to oblivion, so is the delivery of correspondence by letter carriers.  It is only a matter of time until someone makes an inexpensive, internet enabled letter printer.  It wouldn’t exactly be a computer like a PC or a MAC.  It would just be an intelligent, electronically addressable, online printer that would receive electronic mail in your house and print it automatically.  Who needs hand delivery when you can just have your mail automatically printed  on your kitchen counter or wherever else you want?  I know, I know – there are questions about how to handle spam and so forth. These are all soluble problems.  It’ll happen, and faster than you think, too.

As far as package deliveries go, well, it looks like the for-profit guys are doing it much better than the Post Office so why not go for the full American way and let the for-profit businesses deliver all our packages?  It will probably be a lot cheaper when the volume goes up after the Post Office closes.  And don’t worry about the increased shipping costs – remember that $7,000,000,000 bill we’ll be getting from the Post Office this year?  Well, there won’t be any more of those, so maybe all that will happen is that whenever we send a package we’ll be paying the true cost instead of a tax subsidized cost at the Post Office.

So when will this happen? I guessing within five years.  Already the Post Office is closing lots of Post Offices because they get so little use. This is bound to continue.  Meanwhile, because of their fixed costs, the Post Office’s losses will continue to grow.  Give it five years, and then they’ll be done.

Meanwhile, maybe I’ll start designing one of those automatic, online, letter printers I mentioned.  I’ll bet I could make a fortune selling those.  (Please don’t tell me they already exist.)

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