It’s Complex

It seems like there are just a few big issues that need to be solved. And solving those issues should be simple, binary things, they are either fixed or they are not. At least that’s how it sounds when you listen to the talking heads, the flag waving, pin wearing politicians and their supporters. It doesn’t seem to matter which political party you listen to, the answer always seems to be simple and directly contrary to their opponent.

Gun advocates won’t consider any change in the law or funding model that doesn’t entirely resolve every gun related issue in a single sweep, while retaining every level of their hard fought for rights both written and interpreted. According to that group we don’t need new laws, we just need to be better as using the laws we already have, and do it with the same or less money every year. While their opponents to guns seem to say that we don’t just need new laws, we also need to dramatically change our whole approach to weapons. The views are so diametrically opposed, that in effect they feed off of each other to ensure that nothing can ever change.

The “issue” of race parity is treated the same way. We have laws and a culture that favors those of fair skin, and European descent. The process of creating an even playing field cannot be solved in days or weeks, but has to be measured in generations. If your great-grandparents owned a house and went to school then your grandparents had an advantage and were much more likely to support financially and socially the chance of your parents going to school or university, which would have dramatically improved your childhood and your chance of a solid and supportive upbringing. It takes generations before a complete extended family is in the position to fully embrace and support the social and economic needs to help a complete generation of children.

The school system in the US today is probably more segregated than at any point in any countries history. Why would a well-educated family want their children to be in the same class or even the same school of children who grow up in broken households, or have parents who are poorly educated and don’t value education? The answer is that a cycle has to be broken, and that means investing very heavily in providing accelerated high quality support to any group of people who are below a socially acceptable level. Today that often means people of color (every variety). Yes, it means actually spending more on those who need more, as opposed to spending more on those who already have most. And of course those who have most are in the best position to fight for ensuring they continue to get the most.

The US through a complex mix of drug laws, social and economic segregation, and a draconian legal and penal system have created an underclass in society that is demonstrably color-coded. An underclass that is identifiable partly by skin color, but also by a dramatic difference in clothing, wealth and accent. This underclass then gets treated poorly by employers, the government and its legal proxies, which ensures that it continues to be an underclass.

I don’t believe the police are institutionally racist, but I do believe that the markers of the aforementioned underclass are always going to be a specific target for the police.

As an officer of the law, if you were to see a youth dressed as a 1970’s punk with torn clothing, a disheveled look and a bag, you would be interested in the contents of that bag. In today’s world, a large proportion of the societally created underclass are of color, and I would expect that that means that like everyone else, the police have learned to spot these as potential trouble spots. Is this institutional racism or is this a human response to the effects of hundreds of years of race based culture and laws?

It takes incredible effort, and professionalism to change society, and that does not come easily or cheaply. But it does need to happen.

Better schools and a fairer penal system designed to rehabilitate and not institutionalize, are long term requirements.

Policing that takes into consideration the currently economic and socially disparities is a shorter term tactic. The idea that everyone stopped by the police should be treated with military level aggression seems counter-productive to me, but with so many illegal guns, and so much at stake for anyone arrested due to the draconian legal and penal system, what choice is there?

There can be no tolerance for violence, either people protesting against the government or the government exceeding its power. In fact the best place for people and officials to unite is in stopping violence.

This country needs to fix social disparity, it is possibly the most expensive , resource intensive and time consuming activity a country can undertake, but it has to happen.

Yes it is complex, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

(10)

Why is everyone so upset about Brexit?

Listening to the conversation on the radio, TV, newspapers etc. you would think that the UK decision to exit the European Union is a form of country wide suicide, which has the potential of becoming a global Armageddon. Frankly I don’t see it.

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There are arguments for both the UK staying in the EU and for leaving, the country voted, and the democratic decision is to leave. But it seems those who were hell bent on remaining are a little upset. I get it, but it really isn’t the end of anything.

Being in the EU had some value of course, and being out also has some value. There are different strategies that is all.

I’ve heard people opining that now they won’t be able to travel to Europe, and their kids dreams of living all over the world have been dashed. This is just not true. Before the UK joined the EU, large numbers of people chose to live in other countries including Europe and beyond, and nothing has changed. Let’s face it every English bank robber from the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s moved to Spain, and there was a lot of work for the Police and courts to deal with finding and extraditing them. Now I believe the ex-crooks choice of destination is a large estate just outside of the M25. Thousands of Brits live in the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and everywhere else. Thousands more live in France, Germany, Spain, Italy etc. and from my experience I can confirm that moving to a country in the EU is no less bureaucratic than moving to one outside the EU. I’ve done both and frankly it’s just down to the friendliness of the people in the town you move to, and many European destinations are known for making life hard for foreigners. Try moving to France and you will see what I mean, some towns are wonderful, some are not.

There is this fear that businesses will move their jobs to Europe, now that the UK is out of the EU. Again this is just not true. Businesses will place their jobs where the business environment is friendliest to them, with the most beneficial taxation and employment laws. Having hired people in Italy, Germany and France, my experience is that the climate is not business friendly and the UK already has a massive advantage in its employment laws, and this is likely to get even better now that the UK government can make decisions that are UK economy focused. It’s one thing for companies to say they will move to be in Europe, but another to actually do it. Today many US and European companies have moved their European HQ’s to Switzerland, now they may choose the UK. There are some great places to do business in Europe, places with superb work forces with highly technical skill sets and language skills, and the UK is one of them, and can compete quite nicely.

There is this fear that the UK will become a closed country with no immigration. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. The UK has the strongest history of immigration from its empire days, and the incredible people that moved to the UK from India, Pakistan, Africa and the Caribbean are a testament to the power of immigration. The question will just be (like it is for the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, China, etc), what are you going to contribute to the UK? People in need have always been able to come to the UK, and that will clearly continue, and people who bring value to the UK have always been able to come to the UK and that will also clearly continue. The only change will be that the UK will set the rules. I remember taking the train from Paris to London and having to go through 2 immigration checks at the Paris end, firstly by the France immigration and then again by the British Immigration at a desk no more that 10 feet behind the French. Why, because the French were allowing (pushing?) immigrants who they didn’t want to keep in France to go to the UK. It was a French way of not following the immigration rules that were setup by the EU. The UK of course always followed those rules. Now the UK can set the rules, and being British I believe they will be fair. So I don’t expect there will be any problems with NHS doctors or nurses, as they will still be encouraged to come to the UK. And I expect that the Polish plumbers (who may well be the best in the world and clearly have an amazing work ethic) will not be pushed out of the UK. Conversely, if you happen to have a skip in your garden while you renovate your house, you may now find it fills up a bit quicker, as I expect there will be less people rummaging through it for metal (this will only make sense to a UK resident).

The fact is that about a quarter of a TRILLION dollars of gold is stored in vaults under London. And London is in the best position of any country to continue to be the conduit for money transactions between continents. Actually being outside of the EU may well provide the UK with an even bigger advantage in this regard if the UK government and its regulatory authorities are smart.

The UK has some of the best universities in the world, some of the most innovative engineers, and some of the best employment laws anywhere for industry and businesses to grow. Since the 1980’s though the UK has focused on moving from building things to selling things, and this has had a terrible effect on manufacturing and raw material production. It’s quite possible for a UK outside of the EU to turn this trend around, and make the UK the leader in new industries that are only just emerging now. What is needed are leaders who truly can inspire the population, and I believe they do exist and the climate is ready for them to take the lead.

The UK is well known as being a green and pleasant land, and that means it’s a wonderful environment for agriculture, animals, fishing etc. Again government policies designed to stimulate agriculture and focused on the UK’s specific interests would be wonderful to see.

Rather than being depressed about leaving the EU, the UK should see this as a chance to lead.

Being in the EU was hard, and being out of the EU will be hard, it’s not the EU, hard is just a fact of life. A choice has been made, and now it’s everyone’s job to make it work.

 

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Ignorance Is No Substitute For Knowledge

I don’t see religion as the opposite of science, but as a mechanism for very complex ideas to be considered. Over the millennia religion has helped countless people deal with the pain of loss and created comradery to help people who need assistance.

Obviously I can also think of many terrible things that have been delivered under the guise of religion. We can see today how angry, disenfranchised or ignorant people can be deformed by hate, xenophobia or fear supported by the words and deeds from some who chose to use religion to further their own personal power desires.

I am always shocked when groups who consider themselves “religious”, actively deny knowledge because it contradicts what their religion states. Given that there are many thousands of versions of religion in play today, and probably many millions that have been in play throughout human history, it strikes me as ridiculous to believe that any one version is perfect. This does not mean that I wish to ridicule the idea of religion, I do not. I see theology as an extension of philosophy, and where it is applied with care it clearly can really offer comfort and meaning to many groups. But that does not give religion a special pass, like everyone else, religious followers must work to improve humanity and the universe, and not detract from happiness and health in any way.

From a purely observational point of view, I see the idea of evolution to be entirely consistent with what we observe every day. While the time it takes for random mutations to impact a species in material ways is far too long to observe easily, it is though clear that any number of mutations that take place within each organism are clearly observable. One of the basic skills in understanding disease is to understand mutations. Viruses mutate constantly, making treatment a continual fight to deal with resilience. Cancer is now known to be (generally) a kind of cellular mutation where the bodies own defenses don’t see the mutated cells as an invader. Nearly every mutated cell in the body is of course quickly dealt with by the immune system, and it’s only the ones that by chance continue to look enough like the body’s own healthy cells that are not attacked and hence cause issues.

Birth defects caused by environmental changes (drugs, chemicals, radiation etc.) are common enough that we can see them.

Today the human race is diverse to the point that a change in the environment or the emergence of a deadly pathogen is unlikely to eradicate all humanity. It could of course, but the more diverse we are the less likely this is.

Science though has the potential to standardize the human race, in effect removing the very deep level of diversity that actually may protect us from extinction.

We are today standardizing our food, with everyone eating similar plants and animals. Since we all use the same drugs, we are eradicating specific diseases and potentially the bacteria and viruses that could impact future diseases.

Science is not perfect, and the things we change at the macro level may come back and hurt us in generations to come. Or science may actually be the only way that the human race can survive. No one knows. Today’s quality and length of human life have never been better. There are more people alive today than ever before and they are living longer, putting a new level of strain on available resources, requiring new levels of food production, causing new levels of environmental change, requiring more food to be produced in a smaller area, in a cycle that shows no end.

It’s a deeply philosophical conundrum, and maybe using the concept of an outside influence to help understand the universe we find ourselves a part of is a good thought exercise to help frame the issue.

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Hate Breeds Hate

There will always be people who hate, it’s an unavoidable symptom of the human condition. Some people, who cannot get what they want, will always blame someone else. And some of that blame will become violent. Sometimes that violence will hurt people, sometimes, innocent people. And the friends and relatives of those innocent people will, in turn, hate the people who hurt those that they loved. And with this righteous justified hate focused on the ones who hurt their loved ones, they will create reciprocal hate, and quickly the idiocy of the original hate is lost in the mealy of revenge and a whirlwind of battles where everyone loses.

It’s almost impossible to forgive the killing of a wife, husband, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, cousin or friend. So the hurting of one person can create an exponential number of new enemies’.

It takes incredible heroism, intellect and strength to break this cycle. Very few people have ever been able to do it.

Those that have ended conflict are the true heroes, and yet it’s much easier to remember those who won battles and wars, than those who stopped the next battle.

Honoring those who fought assuages some of the pain of loss, but it also galvanizes opinion in support of further conflict. Honoring those who fought, provides support for their fight, and continues the battle. This is why every government, army, politician, religious group and cause uses it.

Soldiers returning from war, more often than not, promote the value of peace and complain of the futility of the war they just fought. Those who never fought, scream for more battles.

Those who enter the armed services, and accept the orders of those who run those services, are heroes, end of story. They choose to put their lives on the line for their country and way of life. In return they expect their leaders and country to have their backs. To only send them into harms way when it is the only choice, and to provide them with the training, tools and support to do their job, and if they get hurt to do whatever it takes to care for them. Leaders have failed in the past, putting their personal wealth and that of their friends ahead of the people, and it is unacceptable! The lesson for the future is to carefully choose leadership that truly understands the critical nature of their role, and has the experience and temperament to do it well.

Many battles seem righteous in the moment, but in the cold hard light of history, the reasons for their inception seem crazy. The history of the British, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch empires is littered with battles fought to support commercial growth, to make the rich, richer. The Greek World, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire were forged in battles, generally at the cost of many lives in exchange for wealth for their leaders.

Today’s Middle Eastern wars have removed carefully placed despots who through genocide and torture kept millennia old hatred’s in chains. These puppet rulers were monsters, but they were monsters created by the Western European powers in the last few hundred years to reshape countries who they had tried for millennia to subdue. It worked, but then we forgot why we put these horrible people in power, and we removed them. And the Middle East now has to find a new balance. It is taking time, but the most horrible elements of hate, will again be controlled, hopefully this time, by the people within their own borders. It will not be pretty, but it will happen.

While if happens we cannot allow the raw hate that these murderous fools transmit to infect us. We must resist the urge to lower our morals and our ethics. We cannot allow their hate to become our hate. While they behead, and commit suicide/murder we must continue to live by our code of ethics, and with strength and good judgment we will win.

(12)

Somewhere

Somewhere in the world (and by the world, I mean the United States of America) there is a budding politician who believes in regulated capitalism. This person believes that there needs to be constraints on the capitalist system so that it’s preferential to hire people in America to do jobs, and that people should get a good level of education from good public schools. And low cost, high quality universities paid for by a mix of public funding, private partnership and very aggressively low cost loans.

This person believes that while we need the largest military in the world we should also be able to negotiate the best prices, and with this we can actually do a lot more with a lot less, if war profiteering was again seen as immoral and maybe even illegal.

This person believes that everyone has the same rights, and that skin color, sexual orientation or sex have absolutely no bearing on anything ever.

This person believes in free speech and doesn’t care if people disagree, their views can still be heard without restriction, and that all religious, irreligious or stupid views can be held and shared, but they cannot be used to stop anyone else living their lives as their see fit under any circumstances. Words are free, while actions cannot infringe anyone else rights.

This person believes in a baseline single payer healthcare system with private uplift insurance for those that can afford it.

This person believes that everyone has the right, and the responsibility to vote, and that every citizen would be automatically registered to vote and actively encouraged to vote. And it doesn’t matter if they have served a prison sentence, once their out they could vote.

This person believes that prisons are for violent offenders only, and the rehabilitation is more important that punishment.

This person believes that there are real long term reasons why sections of the population are trapped in low economic, social and educational ways, and that these should be addressed directly.

This person believes that the vast majority of people are decent but that there are some people who are racist and homicidal. If these happen to wear a uniform is shouldn’t change how they are dealt with. But this person also expects those who police to support each other unconditionally and respects this.

This person believes that those who join the armed forces and follow every order given are heroes. But you treat heroes with the respect they deserve, and only send them into harms was as an absolute last resort. But when they are deployed to do terrible things they must get total support from those who sent them, this includes treating them as heroes when they return with the best of support both medial and economic.

This person also believes that all drugs should be legal and controlled, alcohol, Tabaco, marijuana and even heroine. It’s the control bit that counts. Making all drug cartels, mules and dealers into a legal framework would change the world.

This person believes that all guns should be registered, insured, owned & used by licensed users (like a car).

This person believes that taxes should be lower, but to do this means taking subsidies away from the largest businesses and the richest people, and spending less but not taking from the poorest in society.

This person believes that regulated capitalism is the best known system and that businesses are the best way of generating an economy (not government spending).

This person believes in the short-term economic benefits and the long term myriad of benefits of infrastructure spending.

This person believes in spending less than you make.

This person believes that unions are a good thing, but like anything must be moderated (as must capitalism).

This person believes that while unwanted pregnancies are sad, the best way to stop them is through sex education and not laws banning abortion or contraceptives.

This person believes that the best way to deal with an enemy is through talking and economics. While the worst way is with bombs. And that the bits in-between these extremes, have to be very clever.

This person believes that immigration is a really good thing economically & socially and supports and protects aspiring immigrants.

This person believes that politicians should be paid a living wage for their work, but not for life, and not more than 3x the minimum wage.

This person believes that money should be capped in all political races.

This person believes in actions to curb future global warming.

This person believes that the minimum wage should be set as the wage needed to not receive any government subsidies (easy to calculate as an hourly rate per electoral zone).

This person has a mix of conservative and liberal views, and couldn’t get the nod from either major political party, so has no chance of every being elected in the current system. So this budding politician will be a failure.

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Putting it all in context

The human brain while amazing has some very significant limitations. The basic process of learning is to compare any piece of information to experience. Without a frame of reference we get very confused.

When we are born we get to compare the previous wet warmth to the newly discovered cold and dry. Then we open our eyes and get to experience images and it takes years to fully build up to a level of sentience.

And even then we have a real issue with existence, the toughest is often the end of someone else’s existence. When someone dies, it can be really hard to resolve the fact that they are gone, and so we often use our imagination to make up a place where dead people go. We have absolutely no evidence of these places, but it’s easier to imagine they (the dead) are still with us than to accept they their existence only now exists in our memory.

And if other people reinforce these ideas with stories of god’s and ethereal dream creatures then these other people’s imagination can become our evidence. We call it belief, but it’s actually denial. And the longer a story is retold then the stronger the evidence for its truth.

Since these stories and beliefs become so important, then it is critical for the believers to not question anything that the stories tell, as not believing any one part creates cracks that can cause the whole belief system to crumble. So it doesn’t matter how crazy an idea is, if it’s linked to the belief system it must be upheld as totally true, otherwise the whole of your life’s belief system will be exposed as a total fiction.

So people believe in wild and crazy ideas such as the moon being a source of light, as opposed to a reflector of the suns light. People believe that the earth was created in six days around six thousand years ago and that a talking snake in a park told a woman made of a mans rib to have her man (who was made of dust) eat an apple that was forbidden by a god. That the patterns of stars (as seen only from here) are the bodies of gods; and their positions foretell your personal destiny. That the son of a god (who was also the same god) was born of a virgin woman and died horribly to pay for the apple, but wasn’t really dead (for long) and allowed a bunch of the Romans who killed him horribly to kill people for thousands of years to repent for their killing of him. That each version of god hates each other version of the same god so much that it’s okay to kill and persecute every follower of every other version of that same god. But it’s all okay because if you tell a representative of a god that you are sorry, all will be forgiven and you’ll go where all those people you loved went when they died. And if you strap on a bomb and kill yourself with a bunch of other people (whom you don’t know) then you will end up with a thousand randy virgins in your version of the afterlife who were just waiting to service your every need. And if your version of god happens to have been an alien then you are going to his alien world when you drink that poison, his invisible spaceship is just waiting orbiting the moon for you to leave your Earthly body so he can “save” you. And it’s really lucky that Moses got those ten commandments while walking around that mountain, because otherwise we wouldn’t have realized that murder, theft, swearing at your parents and screwing your wife’s best friend were wrong. And you are still amazed at how awesome your god is that he told all this to people thousands of years ago, and through his inspiration hundreds of people have then selectively edited those aural stories in to written books which have then been selectively edited and translated to ensure that the views just happen to match the ideas of the most powerful and wealthy (and often brutal) leaders over the last couple of thousand years.

But all of this must be true otherwise the people who you have loved and have died no longer exist. And it’s much more important that grand mommy is in heaven than that the world can live in peace and prosperity.

There is a lot of comfort that can be felt from the sharing of good thoughts, but everyone is responsible for everything that happens in the name of every religion and every idea.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Solemn Ramadan, Enjoy Kwanza and have a great naked Yule dance everyone.

(11)

The Minimum Wage Is Just A Distraction.

Politicians of both parties want to pander to their political bases. Republicans want to show that they are providing good value for their oligarch masters by ensuring that it’s legal to pay ridiculously low wages to employees and that there is a good supply of illegal (ie. Close to slave) labor.

While Democrats want to show their supporters that they are looking to help the working people by increasing wages. But they do very little to actually increase the living wage for anyone below the upper levels of society.

And they both use the minimum wage as a flag to fly to support their cases.

But let’s be really clear, no one is proposing a minimum wage that is high enough to actually be livable in the modern United States of America.

The amount of money it takes to live clearly varies depending on many factors, such as the cost of local housing, basic amenities (water, power, heating etc), consumables (food, clothes etc), healthcare, transport, and services. These costs vary depending on where you live. When you add all these basics costs up, it’s clear that a single person or family living on minimum wage incomes cannot possibly survive anywhere without additional support from government programs (either tax rebates, social services or other forms of grants).

The republican view is that these people just need to work harder; otherwise their employers will find it better to take their jobs offshore.

The democratic view is that these people just need more support from government, either in direct assistance or support programs to help them get a better job.

Neither of these approaches ever work as planned, and I don’t think they are really expected to, so long as the bases of each party believe that their politicians are doing their bidding, the politicians are happy to posture and actually achieve minimal change.

There are programs that can work, but these mean actually looking at the causes of a problem and not the symptoms, and it doesn’t seem that either major party is ready to do that, except maybe at the fringes with lefty loons and right wing nut jobs.

The basic issue is that we need people to be employed and we need these people to earn enough money to be able to live without having to be supplemented by government-collected money and hence re-distributed money. This can happen, and the simplest way to make it happen is to create a system whereby employers must pay employees at least enough such that the employees don’t qualify for any form of government assistance (excluding health and disability related help). If an employer pays an employee less than that minimum level then the employer should have a tax levied on them at a level greater than the cost incurred by the government in supporting that employee, and it can be calculated at an hourly rate to cover full-time and part-time employees. That’s actually a very simple calculation to perform.

If an employee works X hours per week for an employer and is paid $Y per hour, but they get $Z of total assistance from government organizations then the impact of underpayment from the employer per week is Z/40 * X (assuming we expect a worker to work 40 hours a week). If Y > than the threshold for receiving benefits then the employer is paying the true minimum wage and no benefits are being received from underpayment of wages. If not then a tax of (Z/40 * X) * 1.5 should be levied on the employer. So it is cheaper for an employer to pay the worker a living wage than to pay the increased tax, that would quickly encourage everyone to pay a living wage.

This formula calculates the impact of assistance per hour so works just as well for part time workers as full time workers.

And to balance that cost there must be a levy on all services and manufacturing that is provided out of the USA. So it becomes cost effective to employee in the USA.

If employers were paying a level to their lowest paid employees that reduced the need for government assistance, then the amount of money government needed for these services would go down, allowing taxes to go down.

Obviously like any idea, this only works if politicians actually had the aim of reducing taxation and increasing the quality of life of the working class, but it really is not clear that is the true aim of any of them today.

It would be beautiful if there was a politician who actually wanted to reduce the tax burden by actually fixing broken programs, rather than pandering to their personal masters, but I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

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Enhancing Shareholder Value a.k.a. killing business success

At some point in the 1980’s someone came up with the idea of shareholder value. The idea was that the ultimate success of a company was to maximize the value that the company delivered to shareholders. Seems like a pretty reasonable idea, until you start to see what people who use this term really mean.

What is often done in the name of “enhancing shareholder value” is totally the antipathy of the obvious definition of the idea.

Surely (you would imagine) that shareholders would want to see a company perform well over a long period of time. And you would imagine that performing well would be a simple concept, where the money a company spends on developing and selling its product would be less than the money it brings in from its customers. You would imagine that in the same way you balance your bank account every month a company would be measured as being successful if there was “profit” on the business they perform.

But you would not be correct!

The stock market and therefore the executives of large companies look for increasing returns not just profit. So if a company continually makes a 10% profit every year according to those who measure shareholder value that company is failing.

So the pressure is on to show increases in revenue, and decreases in costs, so that year on year, quarter on quarter the business “grows”, and so the company gets bigger and the shareholders are then told by the “experts” that the shareholder value is increasing.

This drives companies to off-shore their workforce, find lower cost suppliers, reduce their work force and consider unbelievably expensive mergers and acquisitions. In the very short term these things seem to drive down costs or increase revenue and so that’s a good thing. But they really don’t make a company healthier, they kill it.

I’ve seen company executive’s looks to buy a company at any cost, just to get a small increase in revenue this year. It doesn’t matter that the money spent can never be recovered, it’s about achieving a revenue target, not a margin target. It’s often inane.

A large number of acquisitions never make a profit, what they do in move huge sums of money and stock from a healthy company to the owners of a less healthy company. The two merged companies for a short time have increased revenue, but the cost and mess of merging the businesses often leads to reduced performance and so the growth slows down. Angry customers leave, and new customers question the value of entering this created confusion. So all too often the sum of the parts is less than the whole, and within a few years the revenue of the merged business looks like the revenue would have already been of the healthier if the two parts if they had not merged. To me that says that the billions spent on the merger were entirely wasted. At the same time all the changes demanded to streamline the two businesses cause the best and the brightest to leave and huge political infighting between executives takes place to grab the reduced number of top spots. Innovation slows and then the business is forced to go through more rounds of off-shoring and layoffs to reduce costs even further to have to pay for the debt created from the merger.

Of course there are winners from M&A, those who broker the deal, the CEO’s and CFO’s, the banks and the private equity firms all get lucrative multi-million dollar payoffs as part of their self-created wonderland.

And there are lots of losers, employees, customers, shareholders.

I’ve worked for a number of companies who have acquired large businesses over and over again, and I’ve seen the carnage it creates. Apart from the small number of execs and bankers who make the deal happen, I’m at a loss to see who gains, except maybe of course for India and China.

Maximizing shareholder value seems to be the modern euphemism for “Screw you I’m taking it all”.

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Why on Earth would anyone want to be a politician?

Political office is supposed to be a service to society, but today it seems that politicians get power and money.

There has always been an element of power associated with political office, and I suppose that is why most capital cities have special laws that allow things that are not allowed anywhere else, such as legalized prostitution, access to fireworks and lower than average taxes. It’s also why most capital cities are a long way from where most people actually want to live.

But recently it seems that politicians have been awarding themselves much more than their fair share of goodies. Wage increases above everyone else’s, huge pension schemes, massive benefit packages, longer and longer vacations, even the right to insider trade and take money in exchange for influence.

This has been a concern since the Greeks had an empire, and philosophers wrote about an elite class that ruled but couldn’t benefit from the rules they imposed (Plato’s Republic), and the documented corruption of the senate in Rome (the fall of the Roman Empire).

Whenever politicians throughout history have given themselves too much power, the weight of the corruption that this in turn delivers has always led to the balance being reset.

It doesn’t matter what system has been in place, various capitalist systems, different types of democracy, fascism, socialism, communism and even the sycophantic Byzantine Empire model, which used titles and awards to reward people until those very people realized there was this huge lump of unguarded wealth protected only by purely corrupt words.

We now have ridiculously wealthy and powerful politicians across Europe and America, who seem only interested in furthering their own wealth by doing the bidding of those even wealthier than themselves.

The poor don’t have enough to pay a significant proportion of taxes, and the rich have enough to be able to avoid paying a significant proportion of taxes. Those in the middle have and always will pay more than they should. But when the poorer get poorer still, and the rich get even richer, then the middle has to pay even more. And politicians who don’t spot this early enough and allow the balance to shift too far get in trouble.

They can try for a while to pander to people with words about religious fervor, or scare people with stories about terror and those of a different color, but in the end they end up in trouble. The world has moved on from guillotines and now the trouble mostly comes in the form of impeachments, fines , humiliation and prison terms (hellos Blagojevich, hello Neil Hamilton).

And yet today we have a situation in the US where an almost infinite amount of money is spent to influence the political agenda.

It’s shocking that in exchange for money politicians add clauses into laws that directly reward those who pay them. There are actual laws in the US that mean that specific job titles in specific banking jobs pay lower rates of taxes than everyone else. Seriously Hedge Fund managers pay a lower rate of tax! People who earn their money off of stock trades pay less tax (as a percentage) than people who fight fires or dig holes.

We have had politicians who have run large companies, who have actually given no bid contracts to the actual companies that used to run and have huge investments in.

We have billionaires paying politicians to give billionaires lower taxes. And then these politicians ask people who own a house to pay more to fund the schools in their town (because it’s a choice, give another billion to a billionaire or ensure that schools have enough books, there’s not enough for both).

We have billionaires paying politicians to ensure that the government buys trillions in armaments at list price, and using the words “war profiteer” never passes their lips.

The corruption is across the board.
• Gun companies pay politicians to ensure that everyone can buy guns.
• Drug companies pay politicians to ensure that the government pays list price for drugs and that consumers are banned from buying these same drugs from lower priced sellers abroad.
• Coal companies pay politicians to build coal powered power plants.
• Oil companies pay politicians to build pipelines to their oil refineries.
• Huge farmers pay politicians for farm subsidies.
• Banks pay politicians to remove regulations.
• And the list just goes on and on.

The issue is that politicians are able legally to be influenced by money. And while this happens they will always be corrupt.

On the surface different parties blame each other for the corruption, but all the pigs are feeding at exactly the same trough.

In some places in the world it’s illegal for politicians to accept money for influence (it’s considered a bribe), this doesn’t stop it happening totally, but it does send some to prison.

The issue is that whenever I hear a politician say that they want to get money out of politics, I still don’t trust them. I know they have an angle.

Have we reached the point where no politician can ever be trusted again?

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Insurance is socialism

The concept of insurance is very simple, have a large group of people pool their investment in protecting against a risk, in the knowledge that the costs incurred when a risk turns into an event ,while great, will be manageable since the chance of many people being effected by similar events in low enough.

Everyone pays in enough to cover the costs of these who suffer an “event”.

Insurance works best when the group of people involved is very large. If everyone is involved then it works best of all. Insurance is about playing the odds, everyone joins in and all are protected. It’s the most social of all systems possible.

That’s how life insurance works, that’s how car insurance works, it is how property insurance works and yes, and it’s how health insurance works.
There is absolutely no socialist concept that is more socialist than insurance. In fact the most left socialist countries in the world today are less socialist than insurance. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were not as socialist as insurance (but they were naïve enough to think they were of course).

And in the same way that democracy is a flawed process of government, just less flawed than every other choice, so it is with insurance. No one likes paying insurance, but of all the possible choices, it’s the least flawed model.

And the issue really comes down to our ability to deal with a bad situation. If your spouse dies, or you’re sick, or you have a car crash or your house burns down, then you are at that moment in the least effective position to deal with the issue. Insurance is partly about mitigating a risk and a lot about helping those who are not in a position to help themselves.

No one likes paying for insurance, but no one has ever found a more effective model.

Whenever in history there has been insurance society has thrived (greeks, rome etc), and whenever there has not been insurance society has floundered (dark ages). It’s that simple, when people work together for the common good, everyone wins.
I’m sick of crybabies wailing about having to pay for other peoples insurance. If people are left homeless, sick, bereft of the ability to be a valuable part of society, then everyone loses.

But the other side of insurance is fraud and greed. The only way insurance works for everyone is if the costs are controlled as carefully as possible. Greedy bastards living on the backs of insurance, gouging prices and getting kickbacks from suppliers, and lying about services destroys society just as easily as having no insurance.

Simple rules for a good society:
1- Everyone pays for insurance.
2- If you make a fraudulent claim or you cheat on the costs the punishment must be draconian. I’m talking hung by your nut sack draconian.

Insurance is not nice, it’s just an essential part of how our society runs.

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