Saturday, October 29, 2011

So...the European Union is now financially sound, right?

Well, how wonderful. The European Union high brass apparently, they say, solved the restructuring of the Greek debt situation this past week. So everything is just hunky-dory, right? I mean, the stock market went up almost 3% on Thursday and everyone was singing the praises of a done deal. That has to be good news, right? Well...sort of, but there are a couple of unfortunate realities that no one seems to be considering. I wonder how the world markets and economies will react when those realities suddenly dawn after the hangover of the one averted crisis passes. "What are you talking about?" you ask.

May I suggest that the whole idea of referring to a "Greek" problem is both inaccurate and misdirecting. Remember the original discussion of the challenges to the EU...remember the reference to the "PIGS" countries; Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain. No matter how you cut it, Greece is only one of four bad situations presumably "solved," and I would point out that with the ongoing rioting in Greece, even that matter is still open as many in Europe still see Greece defaulting on its obligations...this latest maneuver has only put it off, sort of the equivalent of Congresses actions in America in "kicking the can down the road." But...back to the larger problem. The ECB (European Common Bank) has now set, with political approval, a precedent on allowing a member country to cancel part of its contractual financial debt. That means, of course, that all other members of the EU are eligible for the same treatment, does it not? Do you really think that political winds will be able to say "no" in the face of a beginning "yes" to removing at least a portion of the consequences for poor administration and planning?

So, may I suggest you take a closer, more jaundiced view of the situation in Portugal. How many of you are aware that the Public and Private debt in Portugal will reach 360% of that nation'g GDP (Gross Domestic Production) next year? Anyone? I know that until recently I sure did not know. Remember, we in America are nowhere close to that and we are at least aware (or giving lip service) to the problem. The cost cutting necessary in Portugal to try to deal, at least partially, with this problem is throwing them into a national recession that, in turn, will harm business outlook in the entire EU. And they are not out of the woods by any means.

The financial fiaco in the PIGS countries have resulted in their inter-european trade situation relative to Germany (a country which has governed it's finances splendidly) decrease by 30%, and there is a limit beyond which Germany will not (and cannot, politically) go to bail out other countries. After all, why should they put their citizens at financial risk for the profligacy of citizens in other countries? A boost in the EFSF(the European bailout fund) from 440 billion euros to 1 trillion euros ... or supposed to create an economic firewall, but the success of that is questionable. And there is a secondary concern for those of us in the United States, since if Europe goes into a broad recession, the United States will also suffer the consequences. The rise of free trade agreements has made all companies global and if Europe gets a financial cold, we will start sneezing too...and we are already feeling poorly, financially.

One solution to the European crisis would be to print more money. The trouble with that "solution" is that rampant inflation would result. Of course, that kind of printing of money is unlikely to happen because Germany would never allow it as the result would be to weaken it's financial position, which they have been very vigilant in protecting and fostering. There is a limit to how far they will go in supporting the less than intelligent or financially viable foibles of their EU brethren.

We in America have no such compunctions, of course. We continue, under the auspices and quiet encouragement of the current administration, to watch our Fed and associated agencies blithely print money (which the EU cannot do without specific authorization from the member nations) without a declared plan or explanation...and more especially, accountability of those making the decisions.

So, lest any of you be surprised, the economic challenges in Europe are far from over. They are just beginning. The government safety nets are only delays that prolong the harm and period of recovery, put into place as a political act by those in power to project an image that they are "doing" something. The desired inference is that those acts are helpful; they are not. They amount to peeling off a bandage a millimeter at a time instead of just yanking it off; years and perhaps decades of financial woe, instead of 2 to three years of recession or even depression. The laws of physics and the laws of finance are similarly immutable; excesses and violations of those laws must correct...all governments can do is to drag them out, or allow them to equalize. We, the people, err in allowing governments to sell us the proposition that they can change those laws. They can't. We prove our stupidity by allowing them to even finish a promise that is contrary.

Remember, the United States contributes to the European Bank. We contribute to the bailouts...and we share in the losses they incur. We are already borrowing money to finance the defense of a large portion of the free world. Why? I have no idea...except perhaps for vanity, the Devil's favorite sin. Tighten those seat belts, my friends, the rough ride is just beginning...

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Dreams" one key to Mr. Obama's performance...

Did you ever interact with someone who seemed the most kind, caring and considerate person while also impressing you with his intelligence and perspective, only to find another side to that person...leaving you disillusioned, disbelieving, and hurt?  That is how I feel about our current President.  It isn't the first time, and I could claim an excuse this time because I have never personally met Mr. Obama...

He is much like an actor on film or stage, having learned his lines and very good at presenting the image...and falling into the trap of confusing the role with his own existence.  And also like an actor, he is very much concerned with his image and protecting it.   He can act kind, caring, knowing and accept all kinds of turmoil around him, as long as it doesn't criticize him or harm what he sees as his image...which is extraordinarily high.

Well, this is true of a lot of Presidents.  But what is interesting is how Mr. Obama's perception of what his image...and therefor himself...really is, and how he came to that perception.

As an example, President Johnson had a very high opinion of himself and his perception was that he was a good administrator, a good wielder of power, and a good judge of well as one born to tell others what to do.  He set about proving all of those things by working and developing those skills.  By the time he became President, most of those visions of himself had been proven through "doing" those very things.  So...his image, his perception, his concept of himself was grounded in reality.  True, it wasn't perfect...nothing ever is...but reality and his version of it were roughly parallel.  And many other President could be cited, but I won't waste the time here.

President Obama is different.  He clearly sees himself as a visionary.  Even his book, "Dreams of my Father", is based on dreams...on a vision...only occasionally rooted in reality and almost never on accomplishments.  It is the stuff dreams are, and should, be made of and totally desirable and acceptable.  But I would suggest that a person growing up with dreams to become an airline pilot would not be hired to actually perform in that capacity by any airline without proving through accomplishments and ability that real ability and training supported the appointment to a position with so much at stake.  Dreams just aren't enough.

Mr. Obama has proven accomplishments in one area only...campaigning.  He is seasoned at it and very good at it...even though he is still developing the skill.  It is his best and highest skill.  A couple of years in State Government and as a junior Senator don't really qualify anyone for the office of President.  His education seems absolutely wonderful...except no one seems to know how he performed or what courses he took and how he did, other than to pass.

Yet Mr. Obama clearly has an image of himself that is high, positive, and exalted.  All of this is desirable as a means of motivation to strive to achieve and learn and press on toward fulfilling that image in reality.  But the dream, the aspiration, is not enough to achieve.  It is a starting point only, not a qualification.  Yet our country has chosen to honor Mr. Obama with election to the highest post in the land on the basis of a dream and the quality of campaigning.

By so doing, we have encouraged and condoned Mr. Obama's dream as reality.  Can we fault him for accepting the coronation?  I cannot.  But that doesn't mean that he is a good President or a good administrator or a qualified leader.  And, like many a young person immersed in and believing their dreams, he feels criticism of him or his policies are direct affronts to his person, to his image, and he reacts emotionally and badly.  See him when confronted, he deflects blame (if unavoidable) to others and otherwise denies any failure or culpability.  Always.  It is NEVER his fault.  He shows this so clearly in his posture and in his facial expression that it is sometimes embarrassing to watch.

The good news is that it is there to observe and note.  The bad news is that so many in the media and in his party are so tied to his success or failure that they cannot acknowledge his inability to perform without damaging their own image or threaten their own jobs.

Dreams.  Such a good and indispensable element with which to start.  But so incredibly inadequate as a basis for performance!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Admittion

I admit to a habit.  I sit at my keyboard 2 or 2 1/2 hours a day.  Usually it is practice, but several days a week I volunteer at Senior Centers her in Santa Fe where I play an old 6 ft. grand.   it allows me to remember the joy or playing on a real piano.  I sold my 5 ft. grand when I moved here.  I love my keyboard.  I can hear the sound of up to 124 instruments on it. set it to do percussionkl, and it has the keyboard feel of a piano. isn't the same.  However, I can sit a my keyboard or at a piano for many hours and never come away tired.  I come away energized.

I suffer from depression.  I always have.  I didn't know that until late in life, and I was given medication.  It took away my depression.  It also took away my joy.  I decided to deal with it myself and gave up the medication.  It was difficult.  It is still difficult.  I am dealing with it now ... and it will go on for the next two or four weeks.  But...I will survive.  I always will.  And it is music that will save me.

Music for me is a substitution for words and for is a substitute for what others use as an expression of their feelings...hidden from most.   I can remain real, ... yet remain hidden and private from most.  Hopefuly, it all remains subtle...