People of America, Your Attention Please

BRICKINTHEWALL

 

When you look at the UK decision to exit the European Union, please look very carefully; This is not the same as voting for Trump.

The UK has a democratically elected parliamentary system (A little bit like the president, house and senate, just a bit more pomp and ceremony, but about as dysfunctional), and it is currently also part of the European Union (a complex series of interconnections between 28 countries with a sometimes stated goal of becoming the United States of Europe, with some amazingly good social ideas and some really scary social and political ideas that seem to harken back to times of people with funny mustaches and no knees).

Having two overlapping political systems should seem very normal to every US Citizen, what with state and federal organizations.

But then the UK also is a United Kingdom consisting of England, Wales, Scotland and (a chunk of the Northern part of an island mostly made up of the country of Eire), called Northern Ireland, along with a smattering of other islands around it’s coasts and a couple of places that are just there for sport (yes Gibraltar I’m thinking of you). Some of these areas also have their own parliaments, which may seem confusing to you (because it is).

Scotland is really poor most of the time, well it’s not actually poor, but it costs more to run than the gross domestic product it produces. This means it needs a sugar daddy to buy it a nice apartment in exchange for a few castles and access to its ample supply of sheep and whiskey. It seems that under the auspices of the EU, Scotland was just one of many areas in this situation, and so a good supply of readies was always available with more always promised (but never quite delivered), and the Europeans were more interested in using it for holidays than f&*ing the sheep, which made them easier to deal with than the politicians in Westminster (England).

Wales on the other hand is really full of sheep, and men with good singing voices, and generally they like to be left alone (to sing to their sheep we all assume), so being part of Europe was not generally seen as anything of value, but it’s very expensive, so with a few exceptions most of Wales wanted to be left out of Europe and left alone as usual.

Northern Island on the other hand is full of people who shout all the time, and really like drinking. This is exactly the same as the people in Eire (Ireland to you), and they can walk there for a pint and a good argument and then walk home again. While going to drink in the rest of the UK requires a boat, which is actually harder than walking. So the Northern Ireland folks mostly want to be part of Europe, specifically with those in Ireland. Except some don’t and they have in the past made that really clear, by fighting amongst themselves in quite serious ways and blowing lots of things and people up. Since those who want to be part of Europe mostly don’t use contraceptives while those who want to be part of the UK do, time will be the great decider, as one group has massive families (of voters) while the other doesn’t. At some point in the next couple of generations the vote will go to those who want to become part of Eire, and the hope is the shouting and drinking will be enough until that happens.

The English on the other hand are more complex, anyone old enough to have a parent or grandparent who fought in WWII wants to leave Europe (remember what we fought for in the war etc.), while everyone who is younger wants to move to Spain and party while collecting government handouts. In fact, it seems most of the largest city (London) wanted to remain in Europe, but it rained quite hard in London on the day of the election so a lot of younger people it seems stayed at home. I wonder if this lack of a focus on actually winning comes from their schooling where sports are not about winning but about spending an afternoon in the sun in a Lacoste shirt and shiny new white trainers and receiving a medal for just being alive.

Anyway now that the UK (Britain is its other name) has voted to exit Europe (Brexit, get it now), and everyones heads have exploded, because up to now no one really thought this would happen, it was supposed to be a moaning vote (a way of expressing a complaint that could be ignored) and like all moaning votes was never supposed to lead anywhere. But it has and now everyone is realizing they really should have worked out a plan of what to do next.

But being British means that they are used to making stupid mistakes and then turning each mistake into something unexpected and brilliant.

Anyway people of America please look very carefully at the Brexit vote, it is not like voting for Trump, the UK still has a democratically elected parliament not run by a raving sexist, bigoted, xenophobic bull-shitter (of course that also could happen in the UK, there is one or two waiting for their chance, but it has not happened yet).

(9)

The Internet Of Objects – Ideal Or A Path To The End Of Everything

In the 1980’s and into the 1990’s there was a movement in technology towards objects. The idea was than any and all data, applications, devices etc. could be broken down into a series of discrete pieces of information, and the use of this information could be described in a consistent way. This would allow everything to work together harmoniously without complex pre-work to describe what everything was.

The issue (at that time) was that for most types of data the meta-data to describe it was actually much larger than the data itself, and this was a huge problem when networks were slower than the spoken word and data storage was more expensive than postage. So the idea slowly died and morphed, and we have been left with a really messy series of standards which make sharing data and devices complex and expensive.

Now I know that I am paraphrasing the whole issue here, but there is no doubt that where we are, is not where we want to be in terms of integrated systems.

Imagine if every piece of data was wrapped in a consistent set of metadata (data about the data).

Imagine if you were sent an email with a specific type of data attached to it, that the data would self-describe its value, keep a record of who created it, what application was needed to use it, and even where the code to use it resided.

Imagine if every internet connected device could provide details on its use, location and current state when asked. So when you enter a house and you could automatically be part of that houses network. Your environmental preferences would automatically be shared with the house, and your entertainment preferences would be available on each device in the house. Obviously assuming that you had the approval of the houses prioritized users.

Imagine that when you program your phones map app to take you to a specific place, your diary and the diaries of everyone you are meeting that day are automatically updated with travel times and arrival times. And the systems in the place you are going to are updated with your drink and food preferences and a desk is reserved for you automatically for when you arrive or the meeting room you are planning to use is automatically chosen based on the number of people who are meeting.

Imagine if in an emergency all the connected devices in a building on fire could be viewed by those trying to help. Every temperature sensor and video feed was automatically available to them, and any phone picked up would automatically connect to the on-site emergency teams without any buttons needing to be pressed. All water, gas and power would be selectively turned off or on by the emergency teams as needed.

Imagine if the sensors in every car, street light and road sign were shared amongst themselves, providing a mesh of knowledge available to every road user, and that journeys were planned with the knowledge about the current conditions, dynamically updated with the planned journeys of every other road user.

Imagine if a doctor was able to review the health data of a patient collected by the patients watch, phone, home and pharmacist building a profile of the patient’s history to help diagnose from subtle changes in their physical condition important early diagnosis of problems allowing for much better treatments.

If every piece of data and every internet connected device could describe itself in a consistent and meaningful way, the possibilities are endless.

There are of course risks associated with easier communication, risks that actually may be greater than the benefits.

It’s almost an evolutionary level risk.

Within a species a continual flow of random mutations creates the likelihood that some variants will survive in any type of changing environment or to put it another way diversity is good.

If all information systems were to follow a single standard, then the possibility would exist of total destruction of the entire system. We have already seen that computer viruses designed to attack windows systems can impact millions of systems at the same time. Smug mac users have always felt safer, but that safety only comes from the simple fact that they are a separate sub-species. It is very hard for an infection to spread across species (biological or technical), but in a world where all data and devices were unified behind one standard, that standard itself could become a risk.

The value of total interconnectivity is immense, but the implications of everything being compromised would be too terrible to consider.

Is it possible to create an interconnected would that is secure enough to be viable?

That is the cold war not just of this century but probably for the whole future of humanity.

(9)

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)

The Trump Policy Process Explained

The Trump Formula

Here is the formula that is used to create every single Donald Trump Policy.

There is only one variable that needs to be defined, and that is the name of the policy.

{start}

In the following just replace the word <policy> with any policy name you care for.

  1. I will be great at <policy>
  2. My <policy> policy will be uuuugggggeeeeee.
  3. Unlike that low energy guy, my <policy> will be lower cost, better in every way and stronger, believe me, I make <policy> deals like you’ve never seen, believe me.
  4. Women will love my <policy> plan.
  5. The blacks will love my <policy> plan.
  6. Evangelicals love my <policy> plans.
  7. I’ll make GREAT <policy> deals, believe me. like you’ve never seen before. They will be FANTASTIC deals for <policy>.
  8. No one will be as great at <policy> as me, believe me. I will be so great, you just won’t believe how great I’ll be at <policy>
  9. Those other loosers all will fail at <policy> I’m the only one who can do <policy> like it needs to be done, believe me!
  10. Just look at my hands, you can infer I have a uuuuggggeee dick, and that’s important for <policy>

 

If you ask me for more detail on <policy> I’ll say that you are paid by the elites and personally insult you in ways that would seem juvenile to a 3rd grader.

 

Now ask me about another policy.

[chants of trump, trump, trump continue in the background interspersed with chants of USA, USA, USA]

Go back to {start}

(9)

Will there ever be another Republican Party POTUS?

Democracy is an unpleasant way of running a country, but it is the least unpleasant way ever invented.

Democracy requires that a process choose the leaders where the group with most votes get’s to win. With more than two parties it is possible for the winner to actually have less than half of the votes and still win. In the US for all practical purposes there are two main parties, and so the winner is nearly always the one who wins more votes than anyone else and actually more than half of the votes.

Of course there are nuances to the process, because the US is not a pure democracy but a system whereby each state effectively has a separate election, and the sum of those elections chooses the president. This means that a smaller state actually can have a greater influence on the result. So some weighting is placed on states to try and even out the relationship. It’s a good attempt, but it does mean that a vote in one state is not quite as valuable as a vote in another state. But it’s close enough.

The US is also a country populated with almost entirely an immigrant population. Obviously there was a native population in place hundreds of years ago, and even after centuries of genocide that population is still alive and a part of US. I think the total is just north of five million. The population of the US is now around 320 million. So the US population is around 98.5% based on immigrants. And the influx of immigrants continues today.

Today the US population is approximately 65% of western European (white) descent, 15% of Africa Descent (dark brown) and around 20% of Latin American (light brown) descent. Those are rounded up numbers from the 2010 cencus. And of all those people around 50% are men and 50% are Women. Personally I find the idea of skin color or sex being important factors in anything to be ridiculous, but they are important as they define groups who act and are treated differently.

So a representative government would be looking to understand and support the needs of all that population. And that is what one of the two parties is trying to do. But the other party seems to think it’s going to win by just supporting the needs of white men.

People its simple mathematics! If you need to win an election in a two party system you really need to aim to get over 50% of the people to support you. Well there are not enough white men in the US to make up a majority. You need to win the women vote and you really should be looking to win the brownish vote as well. Otherwise you will never win another election.

And yet instead of doing this, the grand ole party, is trying to find ways of stopping women and non-white men from voting. And the techniques are just incredible. Everything from religion, to education, to limiting womens health, to making areas where non white people live really hard to sign up for voting.

And lets just think about that, you have to register to vote! What for, you were born (or gained citizenship through a very long process,) you are registered to work (social security) why doesn’t that automatically provide the information needed to vote, it does it most sane countries. The only reason it doesn’t in the US, is a long term and persistent effort to stop young people (who tend to start off more left leaning), women(who rightly demand equality) and browner people from voting.

Slavery, Segregation and Suffragettes and not dim distant ideas. The issue for the GOP is that even though they have tried to stop it, education in the US is now good enough (despite efforts to damp it down), and communication is now good enough that most people actually can spot the self-serving bullshit.

The Republican Party is an important part of the US makeup. Society is very expensive, and sometimes you need to be tougher than any one party can be. We need the counter balance of a left and a right.

But there is absolutely no way that any of the current group of bigoted, racist, religion spouting, conspiracy theory believing children running for the GOP nomination can be seen as a viable president. Not one of them is even willing to agree that the world is more than six thousand years old, or that climate change is man influenced and potentially deadly. They believe in magic and would press the big read button to end the world if the voices in their heads said to do so. That is just not acceptable.

So the democratic candidate will win the general election. Are the choices for democrat perfect? Well of course not. But they are reasonable, and can explain a plan to help everyone do better, protect us all from disaster, and are willing to let the wheels of global democracy turn.

The GOP and their wealthy and armed supporters will continue to espouse that Hillary Clinton is the devil incarnate (as was her husband, as is the current president and as was the peanut farmer). And on the off-chance that Bernie Sanders were to win the democratic nomination, you would hear the Jew quotes, the too-old, and the communist-socialist Armageddon stories surface.

But none of it will matter.

If the choice is a bible-thumping, misogynistic xenophobe with a racial superiority complex against an extension of the non-birth-certificate/Kenyan-Muslim, balanced books, no-new wars, full employment, woman supporting, health system enabling policies of President Obama I believe that the vast majority will go with the saner choice.

And so yet again the GOP heads will explode, every effort will be taken to double down on killing everything, and a fraction of what could be achieved will be. But we will move foreword, onwards and upwards.

(7)

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.

(8)

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.

(13)

Why there is no easy answer on guns.

Weapons of all kinds can serve one of four purposes.

1. Defense
2. Offence
3. Hobby
4. Fantasy

In America the right for people to keep and bear arms is not limited to the government and it’s affiliates, and while the second amendment is written as a partially formed paragraph it’s almost impossible to argue with any interpretation that clever lawyers can push.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I find it hard to see how some fat bloke living in a mobile home, who didn’t finish school and has more firepower that Pol Pot on the Khmer Rouge’s most pissed off day can be considered well regulated, but it seems that’s how that amendment to the US constitution is now interpreted.

I get freedom, and if I was living fifty miles from the nearest police station, I could see how having a weapon for protection makes sense.

What I don’t understand is why it’s acceptable that weapons are not licensed, insured and well regulated, in a similar way to cars.

In America you need to meet more regulation to cut hair than you do to own a semi-automatic assault rifle.

In the same way that someone with bad eyes or a brain injury will need to meet extra stringent test before they are allowed to drive, I think it’s not unreasonable to make gun ownership a seriously controlled act.

Anyone can own and drive a car as long as they meet the rules, why not the same with weapons?

I think we need to separate the loony idea of rising up against a tyrannical government from the idea of sensible gun ownership, if gun ownership is to continue to be a right.

I know that America has been incrementally militarized through multiple generations serving extended times in military services. And the excess of government spending on military equipment has filtered down to domestic security , and the police now have incredible levels of military hardware.

Culturally large parts of the American culture are now heavily influenced by military ideas. From camouflage clothing and backpacks being street ware to companies selling supplies to allow those with bunkers to survive a planned zombie government agent uprising.

There are a lot of weaponized citizens and most of them seem to love their guns. I know that in just about any armed confrontation, the person who has planned it has a huge advantage. If you plan to attack someone you have control of your adrenaline production, you would only attack when you are ready. If on the other hand you are attacked and are not expecting it, your adrenaline will start flowing and you will be in the worst position to respond effectively. The best course of action in just about any situation where you are attacked unexpectedly is to retreat to a defensive position and make a plan. And the best plan is to wait for reinforcements. That’s why a good guy with a gun is unlikely to defeat a bad guy with a gun.

The best situation is that bad guys don’t have guns. And the best way to stop bad guys having guns is to use a mix of limiting gun ownership (for bad guys) with technical and physical methods of stopping bad guys being able to use guns and acquire ammunition.

I don’t think the semantic political games about what is an assault weapon and sizes of magazines can ever do anything useful. But over time if it’s harder for a thief to steal a gun or for a mental patient to buy a gun on the secondhand market, then the volume of weapons held illegally will drop (as has been seen in many other places in the world)

There is no quick fix, and there is no perfect answer. But a start would be the gun special interest groups taking a position that licensing gun ownership, insuring guns and gun users and providing technology to limit gun use to the registered owner and limiting ammo sales to only those who have registered weapons that need it would be very helpful.

(57)

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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