“ …Most of the cast that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they’re sittin’ and cryin’ at home.
One of these days they know they better get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.
Truckin’, like the do-dah man. once told me ‘you’ve got to play your hand’
Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a damn, if you don’t layem down,
Sometimes the lights all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been…”
Excerpt of “Truckin’” by the Grateful Dead – written by: Jerome J Garcia, Philip Lesh, Robert C Hunter, Robert Hall Weir, copyright owned by the Grateful Dead
It’s been a long time since I lead off an article with a song lyric. Given the last couple of weeks in the geopolitical, financial, and personal lives of many people of the globe I felt it was an appropriate song and especially part of this song. Unfortunately my time is more limited now then before so I have to keep this short, which for me is quite long for most people, just kidding. As I have not gotten out a rant for a couple of weeks, nor any observations on the credit crisis, presidential race, or US foreign affairs of which there have been many and many worth commenting on, so in order to keep myself from getting side tracked I will discuss the following as briefly as I can.
First up the US and World economic panic fueled by doomsayers in the main stream media drunk off their own power and influence. Second is the American presidential race that is beyond polarizing and crystallizing and into really dangerous territory yet the media is content to fawn over Obama and not even try to hide their bias. We will then take a quick trip to discuss Somali pirates, Russian grandstanding, EU paralysis, North Korea’s victory, and the eerie silence from Iran over the past month. Finally, China was in the news since the Olympics for all the right and wrong reasons, their successful space walk and then the third melamine scandal and second involving milk power. I will give a quick recap of my trip to Taiwan, some insight gained from there, I did take another journey into southern China but all this is a for another day.
As my long time readers will note, I seldom will comment on a story in the first day or two of it breaking. Why? Because most of the time the professionals I rely on to report the facts don’t do their jobs and then I look like a bigger idiot then they do, my Glouster high school reports in June being a shinning example of me jumping too early and the media getting most of the facts wrong. Anyway… point being the recent financial crisis is a shinning example. Listening to the news and you would think the world is coming to an end. Markets were crashing, tax payer money was being dumped into an abyss of doom, credit was being frozen for the entire planet. Well, things are bad, but not that bad. The Federal Reserve as well as the central banking systems of many countries are staving off the bad habits and greed of Wall Street wizards and unrelenting banks who decided the money was too good to stay away from. The cows came home, the chickens are roosting, and many other colorful clichés can all be applied. How did this all happen, well not even the experts can agree but from my reading and interpretations here is the deal.
This mess has 3 distinct parts; how did it happen, how bad is it… really, how do we fix it… really. The cut and dry of it is this, an inflated housing market driven by greed and a very liberal housing push was fueled by low interest rates and compounded by Wall Street firms who off loaded the sub-prime rate mortgages from irresponsible banks in order to make quick money and failed to manage it correctly. Am I an expert who knows better then financial people who study this stuff for years, no but I can attest to this. I have eyes and ears, a brain, and from thinking on what I have seen and heard over the past 2 weeks it is pretty clear how it happened. So we got where we are because some banks wrote bad loans for overpriced property and to people who had little to no collateral or earning power to pay it off and when the pricing bubble burst everyone ran for the hills. How bad is it, how good is it? Credit is frozen. Business is paralyzed and not able to fund growth or new projects. Banks are not loaning to other banks preventing new loans. Many people have lost a ton on paper (meaning they only have a loss if they cash out now, not if they stay in and ride it all out). Mortgages are upside down (loan is more then the net worth of the property) so it is only a loss if the burrower goes into foreclosure, if they keep paying it is only bad for them, not the economy on a whole. Finally, how do we fix it? Are you sure you really want me, a libertarian and conservative minded person to answer that, seriously. We fix this the same way millions of American families fix their debt burdens. We start small, make sacrifices, and over time we get it done, period. There will have to be sacrifices, across the boards. This means entitlement cuts, program cuts, funding cuts, earmark cuts, and yes Virginia, fiscal discipline and responsibility on a Federal level. We, the tax payers, will have to sacrifice and work through it too. Credit markets will be more responsible and conservative now, where they should have been for the past 15 to 20 years. Making loans on sound risk/reward calculations based off of credit history, earning power, and collateral to cover losses if they happen. The media has an agenda. In light of declining subscriptions, market shares to the internet news services, and years of left slanted preaching they have lost most of their readers/viewers. In order to become relevant again they are fear mongering, over hyping the story to make us pay attention to them. In stead of returning to sound, decent, and dependable journalism fundamentals they are using slick Madison Avenue ploys and tactics to gain attention, well if everyone screams the sky is falling it must be so, right? This isn’t 1929, 1939, 1979, 1989, or 1999. This is a much needed correction in the markets and it will work itself out, those who survive will be stronger, wiser, and better off for it, period.
Ah, my favorite topic, American politics. This election is like all others before it, only the people have changed. How can I dare say that with all that is going on? Look at what is really happening. Strip away the superficial hype and antics and look at what really matters. We have 2 polar opposites running with their respective camps solidified and the moderate folks in the middle left to decide. In the last two elections these folks were a razor thin margin and this year is no different. These last 3 weeks will be it. Don’t listen to polls, pundits, or talking heads about who is winning or ahead because it means nothing. What is the platform, that is what matters. Is McCain going to be better off on the domestic spending and policy front? Is Obama able to deal with the international community, run a war, negotiate better trade deals to lessen our trade deficit and strengthen the dollar but to a responsible level? Will Biden or Palin use the power Cheny has instilled in the office of Vice President, as President of the Senate, wisely and to drive the executive message through Congress? Do we want overloaded Democrat lead policies with them having an overwhelming majority in the 2 out of 3 branches of our government giving Nancy Pelosi an rubber stamp or do we want to retain a more balanced approach to government? STOP listening to the main stream media! Candidates lie, they tell you what you want to hear. Media is going to tell you what they want you to hear. If Bill Ayers or Troopgate are that important to you then vote accordingly. If you want more Federal programs and larger government vote for Obama. If you want a bull moose road bump president vote for McCain. Who is best for the country? There are well over 200 million opinions on that. My take, well… you will have to stay tuned, I am not tipping my hand that easily. It is obvious but my reasons are not.
To be fair the media is not even coming close to making things fair. Troopergate was hounded for over a month. Bill Ayers has continuously been a back page item. McCain is given low marks and railed against all the time, Obama spends 3 times the money at fire-sale prices and it is not covered why he got this sweetheart deal. All the major markets are in love with Obama, their reporting oozes of it, it is so overt it resembles a San Francisco gay day parade. Why is Sara Palin crucified for looking into the camera and Joe Biden given a free pass over FDR being president when the stock market crashed happened leading to the Great Depression AND addressing the nation on TV AND standing up to deliver that message? Granted Fox is slightly slanted but if you pay attention to the words, delivery, and body language of the other big 3 networks and 2 cable news channels it is as if Tina Fey and SNL took over the majority of the reporting institutions. Besides the socialist and Marxist media slant I have a problem with both of the campaigns as they are sounding the same as others since I began paying attention to politics some 26 years ago. Candidates are vague, dodgy, pontius, and slick. They don’t answer questions, they spew rhetoric generalities that spin peoples heads and are as filling as cotton candy. In none of the debates did I see 1 good straight answer. McCain has let me down here. I expect Obama to be dodgy, the wider appeal he has the better, McCain should have stuck to his ‘straight talk’ principles and not entered into the arena of soaring rhetoric. Give us numbers, points, agendas with substance. Let the other side pick it apart and then prove why your side is better! Give me simple yet brilliant solutions to the issues at hand (How do we bring back jobs to America? We don’t, we create new sectors and industries through grants, tax initiatives, and training to lead the world into a 21st century economy and unburden ourselves of the low tech and uncompetitive nature of past industries.) See simple yet brilliant. I want to know if you are proposing a tax break how you will fund new or expanded programs, where is the money coming from, who ran the numbers, who checked their work? Presidential politics in the 21st century should include specifics and facts, not talking points and vague error laden statements. Tell me how you plan to combat extremism, military modernization AND curtail wasteful spending, keep taxes at levels to not hamstring the economy and business AND provide enough help to people in NEED to receive what they need. What is your pet? Space exploration, healthcare, education, political reform, cutting government, minimizing lobbies influence, regulating business, environmental protection, blah blah blah, just tell us what it is, how you want to use it and how it is going to be paid for. Who will you appoint as advisors, ACORN executives or Wall Street executives? This is what really matters but instead we only get generalizations and platitudes, it’s a crying shame.
Pirates of East Africa! Doesn’t have the same ring to it does it? I bet none of them wear mascara or act like a weirdo either. Boy, did they hijack the wrong ship or what? Now the practice and payments of companies and governments in enabling this practice is out for all the world to see. This is what happens when super powers disengage in world matters. The US is distracted and doesn’t feel Africa is worth much, China only does business there, and Russia it appears is left to profit off of all their private little wars (ship load of tanks and ammunition going who really knows where). Piracy is an old problem and one that has global consequences. Why am I bringing this up, because it is a shinning example of what giving into demands of extreme people will get you, more of the same. These conditions, and related ones to kidnappings in Latin and South America, show what happens when profit is made off of daring acts or illegal activities. Unless we really want to see piracy become a new industry they should blow the ship out of the water or at least board and eliminate all the pirates to send a message that this industry’s days are limited, else we can only expect to see the same and then inflation as shipping companies or factories have to charge more to cover their pirate taxes and ransom fees. Singapore has a problem with this too, just not reported. Enboldened pirates with dollar signs in their eyes is bad for everyone.
Russia beat down the world. The EU, led by the French, placated and condoned the Russian aggression and only in the current week have positive steps been made. What did codling and appeasing the Russians get us? Long range nuclear bombers in Venezuela, modern nuclear powered battle cruisers and war ships in the Caribbean, and a fully confident and resurging Russian bear. NATO looks anemic in able to handle European issues and due to Russia’s permanent status on the UN Security Council it only leaves trouble ahead, yep Obama style foreign diplomacy works. Speaking of Europe, the EU failed to pass their improved measures earlier in the year, thanks to the Irish, now they have spent 2 weeks to come to an agreement on how to deal with the global credit crisis, and they are facing an aging population with dramatically declining birth rates, soaring immigration that is changing their make-up and societies, and making them more reflective of the diversity we see in the US. Given Europe’s past track record on acceptance and diversity and their guilt over the past 2 world wars it seems Europe is headed for a geo-political ice age. Their economies will be hampered by our credit crisis spilling into their markets. With too few young people and cheaper employment in developing countries their industries will find it harder to resist the calls to globalize, their protection tactics will create huge trade problems, their socialists styled welfare systems will run out of funds and soon, and their outdated approaches to government and decisive actions will lead to a more lethargic cotenant then we have seen in the past 50 years, which is pretty incredible. Only really strong and bold leadership can fix their course, and it is lacking.
On to Asia, North Korea has been rewarded not once, not twice, but three times for not behaving correctly and honoring their nuclear non-proliferation treaty. First there was the nuclear fire cracker they detonated, then there was the Syrian copycat facility at Al-Kibar (destroyed by the Israeli Air Force with not a peep from anyone), and finally there is the denial of IAEA inspectors and reversals in dismantling of their nuclear materials production and refinement center and the answer given to them is to remove them from the US Terrorists Watch List? Way to go W. Now it is official. North Korea has won the Korean conflict, diplomatically whipped the US of A, and bullied their way onto the international stage by holding the free world ransom with nuclear weapons aspirations. See above pirate comments to see how bad this can get. Silently sitting on the side lines is Iran. Anyone remember them? The last I heard from the Islamic State was President Ahmadinejad wanted to debate with McCain and Obama while he was in New York for the past UN council meetings. Since then what? There has been social unrest over a VAT tax that Ahmadinejad said was communicated badly, and has been repealed temporarily to stop rioting. Besides that just the mounting evidence of their support and involvement in the insurgency in Iraq and little to anything else. Seems they have been taking notes over the North Korea situation, waiting out the US Presidential race, and doing who knows what in the mean time. McCain keeps eluding to a conflict with Iran. He needs to stop this and just say we need to keep the current pressures in place and if leave it at that, we all know there is force on the table so there is no need to remind people of it, Obama is changing his tune on them as well, but still not to the harsh degree Iran needs to see as a unified policy denouncing their work beyond civilian nuclear power with oversight and monitoring in place to guarantee it and REAL punishments spelled out if they violate it.
Now to China. First up the milk tainting scandal. Melamine is an industrial byproduct of coal production that is rich in nitrogen and little else. We all saw how well it works when ingested by pets. Add this to China’s SECOND milk powder scandal, and this time entire dairy industry, and you have to wonder what is going on. Wall Street mentality. China is rapidly modernizing, developing, and progressing. Due to the speed and numbers here, things get overlooked. China’s focus has been shifted in too many directions and paralyzed by hard line party controls or lack thereof when things are dumped on local officials. Since the opening of China in the 1980’s, wealth has been stressed. You see it everywhere here. People rush in and cut in any queue. People argue and push their children and themselves to succeed in everything they try. Living here is like living in a beehive, full of energy, motion, sound, and stress. Due to this, shortcuts happen. China is not unique in this, just their failures are huge when they happen. From shoddy construction in Sichuan’s schools to greedy milk distributors who watered down milk, added in cheap melamine, and resold it knowing full well it was toxic and hazardous (this current milk scandal was China’s second, the first was poorly reported 5 years ago and internally hushed up quickly yet it was allowed to happen again). Now it is coming out that party officials have special organic farms, the same ones used for the Olympic athletes, and are isolated from such lapses in the food system. While an internal issue, this one has reached many, many, many countries in Asia Pacific and the world. From bad medicine laced with impurities to this milk, the quality control programs and concepts in place are lax and a novelty. Fortunately our daughter does not consume any Chinese milk. Why is that, her grandparents insist on it. It is a stark and telling thing when professional peoples who lived through China’s transformations over the past 50 years don’t trust the local products for safety or quality. I really feel for the parents who have little options or means. China has a branding problem and to win over the world’s trust in the Made in China stamp the government needs to focus more on quality control and regulatory oversight of its fledging industries then it currently is doing.
On a positive note, China has taken one more step into space, literally. In less then 60 years China has developed a modern and advancing space program. They are of just 3 nations to launch their own astronauts into space and now to step out into the vast void of it. There are serious questions to what this all means. China by nature is secretive. Closed off for centuries by distrusting dynasties, internal conflicts, and communist rule their intentions are unknown and suspect. China has not signed up for the International Space Station program, and is going to construct one of their own. They are now racing us to the moon, with intentions of why left up to speculations ranging from national pride to resource mining and development. Their actions of low orbit satellite destruction has military overtones all over it and this past space walk had military overtones as well. It is great to see a nation like China transform so quickly, but just as other things I see here I have to wonder if they are fully thinking over everything they are doing before they do it. China is not transparent in its endeavors. China has trust issues, and given how the rest of the world has treated them in the 1800’s and 1900’s it is partially justified, but it is time China became more open and overt in its actions and its plans for these actions. There is a non-militarization of space treaty in place, thanks to first space race and cold war leftovers. China’s space program is more then a curiosity to the world, it is troubling to some because lack on information leads to speculation and that realm is always dominated by fears. The US and the international community are working in the ISS for scientific experiments. The US wants to map and get back to the moon to possibly assemble a leap off platform for reaching Mars or other areas. From the moon we can better monitor the Earth’s changing climate from a different perspective. The US is continuing to map and explore other planets and our solar system, yet we share all this information to all scientists, China has yet to do so on their findings, either to confirm what we found or to dispute it with new evidence. It is a great achievement and crowning moment for China to have walked in space. It would mean much more if they spelled out what it is they expect to do when they get there though.