Friday, April 15, 2011

So Many Words

We are drowning in a sea of words. TV is radio with pictures. we watch people tallk and get into/out of situations with words. we watch politicians use an endless flood of words. Nobody knows what they said. They are skilled and feeding tidbits to -your- prejudices. This allows them to be for/against any issue at any given time. What they said was ,exactly, what you thought they said. Did they mean it-? Who knows-? I doubt even they know what they said and what they really meant.

When I first went to Washington, I was told "Politics is a conversation that never ends." It's true. They speak about endings, the future, changes and lots of hopeful things. They never set a date when THIS if finished and THAT can begin. Both keep being issues forever.

Straw-man argument or style or rhetoric is when you say "Some have said" or "We all know that this country is not like THAT". This fits your prejudices. There is never any person who actually said it to them or even proposed it. BUT it fits the bias that "Well, somebody could have said it/done it/meant it." Nobody ever pins down the -WHO- of it.

If all relationships ar based on trust; how can we trust anyone who never stands still. a person who keeps talking-? Anyone who talks more and faster when they think you may be catching on is -UNTRUSTWORTHY-. iF YOU CAN'T TRUST SOMEONE, -WHY- Are you granting them any more of your time, energy, confidence, faith, hope or money-?

I remember when a handshake meant something. A man was a man because he kept his word. Those who told lies, said anything at any time were either children or liars and usually a thief.

The world has changed. People are different. Yet, we still need to trust each other to have any society or value in our lives.

I live by the modified version of Caesar's Wife.s Virtue that "Not only must I appear to be trust worthy, I must BE trustworthy"

It places the burden on me and all I meet to be trustworthy. Then we can look hard at whether we think the other's definition of "trustworthy" is similar and just how different are we...

I sometimes wish that more felt this way. Unfortunately, we must have some nasty, ugly, -very public- betrayals and transgressions before the lesson is learned. Society functions best on a 'by exception' basis. we all hold similar values, except here and there or even this person. If we're not similar in our values we simply have no basis for trusting each other. Do we-?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scared of the Future-?

I ran across another post by John Hawkins noting what happens to you and me when America goes broke.

I'd rather not believe that it's all a scare tactic. Well, I would, but too many years of watching my pennies and letting the dollars follow plus examining company financials to see how they are dealing with their present and future lead me to believe that either we have some leaders with some backbone or we continue to follow the fools who expect "The-Rich" to pay for everything.

we're in trouble and nobody seems to want to pay attention. It's almost like the pop quizes in school when the-cool-kids hadn't done their homework... "Nobody Told Me There Would Be Math" cries and whimpers...only this is not an exam. This is reality.

We are losing $200Billion ( i.e. $200,000 millions) every month. The interest on our debt (notice how nobody speaks about the interest) is another $200 Billion. Japan has been hurt and will not be in a position to buy our paper promises when the ones they hold run their course. Britain is doing all it can to handle it's solutions and problems. Canada seems to have avided the issues. However, we're refusing to allow a pipeline to be built that would move Canadian crude to the Gulf for processing. we continue to buy 10% of our oil fro Venezuela. Chavez hasn't shown much love to us. we haven't shown much towards Canada. (NOTE: Bot sources of crude are extra specially heavy in sulfur and need special refineries. Iran has a similar problem.)

That leaves China who hold more than $1 Trillion in our paper promises. (A trillion = $1 million million)

We are stretched financially and militarily. We have Iraq and Afghanistan plus the build-up of the Orwellian named Homeland Security. we have just gotten entangled in something in Libya. Nobody knows what we're doing or why we're doing it.

Being stretched removes our flexibility and ability to respond. Should we have another Katrina or SF earthquake we'd be hurting. The American people would pull together -but- would it be seen as simply -another- crisis not to waste for political advantage-?

We don't trust our Political leaders. It seems that -everything- has become political. will we ever be able to go back to sleep and simply pursue our lives and enjoy our families-?

I wish I had a clue. Right Now; I don't know. When I speak with other business folks; they don't know either. The political landscape is ugly, unfamiliar, and filled with so many "Useful Idiots" in Lenin's famous term. IOW, people who have lots of outrage and will tur out to provoke and attract headlines ...but who have no real idea why they are there or the consequences of their actions.

Donald Trump is FAR more interesting than Charlie Sheen. whatever he does it is interesting and beats seeing the usual dwarfs playing it safe... I keep hoping/expecting a -real- candidate. My choices/secret hopes are Jim Rogers of Cypress Semiconductor and/or David Petraeus.

I think the good general has -earned- his seat as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It seems that The "Good" General and politician who has never fired or seen a shot fired in anger will assume the role. Petraeus seems destined for Head of the CIA or maybe Head of NATO.... What an insult-! Musical chairs will move the head of the CIA to run the defense Department...and I may be the only one who remembers Leon Pineta as the bag man who retired ahead of an investigation... Guess he showed -them-

Noodling in the dark... Blogging on the internet.... random thoughts running out my fingers.

Aggregators, Adults And's

I usually read Instapundit and Lucianne for my quick take on the news of the day. Well, at least for my political and social commentary news. Drudge holds the lead for the hard news of actual events.

Instapundit links to John Hawkins interview with Dr. Thomas Sowell. The occassion is the publishing of his latest book; Economic Fads and Fallacies second Edition. as usual, Dr. Sowell cuts thru the crapola. He reports that We Are Broke and provides details...

I have enjoyed reading his works for over 20 years. He is good, incisive and no nonsense...
It's hard to argue with his conclusions since he shows how he arrived. Listening to the children who march, protest, lobby and inhabit most of our education and political establishments is tiring. He is an adult who speaks to adults.

I have ordered my copy. Have you-?

Monday, April 11, 2011

So, Now I read on-average, a book a week. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. Amazon has a phenomenal number of good books, used, for sale. My tastes run from paleo-archeology , Roman history, Economics, Politics of the past, American history, Chinese history, Silk Road and India. Why-? Because good books make reference to other people-other times-other places. Nothing happens alone and singular.

Amazon and have spurred a renewal my interests in music. Watching the whole industry evolve and adapt to the internet is educational. The big giants have had to scramble. Their music has become a commodity and following the laws of economics "Markets reward the low-cost provider" Buying used CDs allows me to experiment. I can risk some small dollars on an unknown but intriguing artist.

The internet continues to be a disruptive force, mainly for good. Some bad things happen. However, the world is not a safe kindergarten where the adults protect and assure comfort should anything go wrong. Americans, especially the Gen X, Gen Y and Gen z are a mix of brilliance at technology and using the internet. They are also incredibly naive about scams, falsehoods and betrayals of confidence. They get irrationally upset at any slight. IOW, they act much like the spoiled children they are. Such behavior is tolerable in a small child, unpleasant in an adolescent and wrong in an adult. The world is not a completely safe and nurturing place. Bad things happen to good people as often as good things happen to bad people.

Watching the antics of our "leaders" on TV is funny. They are very risk-adverse. They run for office promising to Lead. They claim that they are LEADERS and know the right thing to do. Once elected, too-often, they become sheep. They wait and wait for the "Judas Goat" (look-it-up) to come and show them the path out of the thicket. They ignore their campaign promises. They become petty, arrogant and officious when challenged....

The 2010 election brought forth a new crop -who, so far- seem ready to honor their promises and do what is best for the country. For too long we have had politicians who simply used the public purse to reward special interests. Nobody was paying attention. Polls continually showed that the electorate disliked Congress as a whole and even the President. But they loved -their- Congressperson...even when they had no idea what they did or even if they showed up. For many years my Congressman Tom Lantos, held the dubious award of being "The Most Absent Man In Congress". He had a safe seat. He voted the union line. They showed up before the elections to provide manpower for phones and driving the voters to the polls. They walked the neighborhoods and handed out signs and leaflets. ... The Republicans always had some token opposition. Most never polled more than 50,000 votes. But Lantos won in a slow walk. The entire country grew accustomed to such relationships.

Now we are broke. I studied business company's that filed bankruptcy as well as those who were successful. I interviewed the leaders of the failures and read their filings and interviews. Consistently, they said "we ran out of time." watching the fight over our national debt, it seems one side says "Quick-! we must change our ways" The other side says "No. Go slow. There is plenty of time. We don't want to upset everyone." what do out debtors say-? How much time will they give us-? will they buy our bonds as we pay off the old and borrow anew-?

Increasingly, people are seeing a round of inflation as the only way to pay off this mountain of debt. Devalued dollars will hammer lenders and reward those holding assets. Will the US do it-?
will This President and This Chief of the Federal Reserve use cheapened money to harm those who gave us their trust-? watching the rise in commodity prices, oil, gold, silver, copper, grains etc. The answer seems to be a resounding "YES-!"

Inflation will hit the wage earner hardest. The wage earner cannot raise the price of their services as fast as commodities rise. Their employers cannot raise their wages until/unless the public accepts the new pricing. Hard Times seem just-around-the-corner.

Good managers, good entrepreneurs anticipate the worst, hope for the best, and plan for the most-likely. Right now, I;m glad I have no employees or customers looking to me for answers or a plan. I have no clue how ths will play out.

The U.S.A. has never been in -this- position before. We have a huge government that costs more every day in wages, regulations, rules and infrastructure. Businesses cannot plan because they don't know what regulations will be coming. The new Congress has proposed a law that would require a vote by both houses of Congress before any rule with an impact over $100 million is enacted. It is a good idea. However, political appointees who are True-Believers will quickly write regulations that impact the nation in $90 million increments. Then they will flow like the cars on a freight train crossing the desert, one-after-another is quick succession.

we are n a mess and no clear path seems available. The large companies are now deemed Too-Big-To-Fail. This means that they are both a bulwark against government -and- a captive pawn of big government. Our future lies with the small and mid-sized companies. we need a more fertile ground for entrepreneurs to take The Risk of ther wealth and good name to fill a need with new products or services.

Rules and regulations cripple small businesses. It diverts scarce capital, people and management attention to comply. The government cannot do away with the oldest maxim in the marketplace; "Caveat Emptor". More rules, laws, regulations, and enforcers will not protect the fool and his money from a "Great Deal"... All they do is confuse and hinder the growth of skepticism.

All business relationships are ased on trust. Trust is earned slowly and destroyed quickly.
Good business managers know that they, like Caesars wife, must not only be beyond reproach but they must appear beyond reproach at all times. This applies to all levels of the company. Good Will is earned slowly and is worth a lot, especially in times of uncertainty and adversity.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

World Slows Down

Since 2008 my world has slowed dramatically. The economy started backing off in '07. Many of the HNW (High Net Worth) people I was meeting to raise capital saw a cold wind coming from Obama-land and started pulling back on their risk tolerance. They expected huge tax increases as he was promising them. They also expected a landslide of new regulations and enforcement.

Nobody saw the Financial accounting standards Board changing the rules and destroying the balance sheets of highly regulated financial institutions. The FASB enacted their Mark-to-Market rule in November '07. Bear-Stearns hit the wall in January. When the FASB finally rolled back the rule in April '09 the economy recovered. They're now talking about re-enacting it again. Personal observation is that nothing will happen for a decade. That change wiped out the value of performing loans that were not in doubt or even due for 10-20 years. The bundled mortgages had a mixture of good and dubious mortgages. The good ones were paying a low rate and the dubious a higher rate. when the rule hit nobody knew what was a good bundle or a bad one. That made it impossible to sell without unbundling. However, the holder didn't have the authority to act.

The result of all the chaos and uncertainty loans were stopped-mostly. Even the most credit worthy were forced to pay high rates. The alternative was a pay-off or default. The system worked because people built equity as the assets appreciated and the debt was reduced. Eventually one would have a paid loan, a free asset that had appreciated above the original purchase price. This is the secret of most family homes and real estate investment wealth.

We need to grow. Funding evaporated for acquisitions. Our equipment was old and we had held off replacing it expecting to merge the business into a new and larger entity. With no funding available for acquisition, we began seeking funding for replacement equipment. Despite the popular Marxist myth, no responsible owner ever compromises safety for profit. Lacking any source -at a reasonable rate- we closed the doors and went home. Only an idiot/fool/desperate person takes a loan at 37.5%... Course, the lenders take a fixed and floating on everything the company and owners own... They know what is happening. It hurt to walk away but the alternative was too ugly.

The economy has not returned. The surge in stock prices shows mostly a draw-down of inventory and extension of existing equipment and work hours for those still employed. The EPA has a new raft of rules and regulations that will soon be enacted. Mostly these will raise the cost of -ll- energy and its usage. The new financial regulations haven't been written, but nobody expects the small and mid-sized to benefit from the weight. Healthcare is a mountain of cost with as yet unknown regulations.

The country is broke. Bush gave a stimulus to keep Nancy happy. Then the TARP bailout. Then the Obama use of TARP to take over the auto industry and pay-off the unions. Then we had the $1 trillion stimulus. Supposedly for "shovel-ready" work. However, there is no such thing where govt money is concerned. Every penny must be watched, accounted for, bid for, granted and then measured as it is spent. The govt keeps adding people. Course, most of these jobs will become SEIU union workers so, It's OK.

I've grown cynical and disillusioned.

I was taking the whole political sphere WAYTOO seriously.

I stepped back.

Re-discovered the stack of books that I had been meaning to read.
Re-discovered music that I had been to busy to hear.

I think it's been good for me.

What next-? I'm not sure.

But that's what being human is all about. Isn't it-?

Don't we all keep coming back to see what happens next-?