Aug 24

Divided We Fall

divided
In my lifetime, I have never seen the United States as divided as it is right now. And also in my lifetime, the country has never been in as bad a shape as right now. The two are related, correlated and even causal. I believe that the more divide the country, the less prosperous the country we will be. We as a country must focus on the issues that unite us and run away from the special interests and lobbyists that attempt to divide us.

America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. American ingenuity ushered many of the most important developments of mankind including the television, the car, the airplane, the radio, the computer and the internet. There are many others as well, but suffice it to say that many of these innovations greatly increased the productivity of the world creating enormous economic profits to one nation. Behind all of this are two key tenants of America. Capitalism and Democracy.

The problem in the United States and we are watching it fade right before our eyes, is that we no longer have Capitalism nor Democracy. It is sad to see capitalism fade in the United States. It has transformed itself into what is called crony capitalism. Success is not defined by how hard you work nor the quality of your innovations, but access to the right people in our federal government. This is defined by plowing money into the myriad of lobby organizations that pollute Washington DC. To be successful in American society today is to run a company that has a lobby organization in Washington DC. So American business is dominated by telecomunications, pharmaceuticals, banking, and the military industrial complex. Perhaps the most egregious of all is our banking system. The government as well all know is highly in debt and growing larger and more in debt every year. But there is nothing to be done because all of the moneyed interest want a large yet weak government that is afraid to regulate the very industries it must control.

Worse yet, the United States is no longer a true democracy on the federal level. Both parties Republican and Democrat have been seduced by all the money. Elections have become a high priced show where the outcome is irrelevant. Perhaps the largest hypocrisy was the election of Barack Obama who ran on a platform of Hope and Change. The sad reality is that Obama has done almost nothing to change the trajectory of our country. In fact, most would agree, he has accelerated the downfall.

We must unite behind the principles of free markets and democracy. We must restore these two fundamentals of our great country. The government must play an active role in promoted free markets but right now they are doing the opposite. The government picks the winners in back rooms rather than letting the market decide. Worse yet, the government allows large companies to merge without regard to we the people whom they represent. We must restore democracy so that the federal government represents the joint desires of the people who elect them and not the money that filled their campaign coffers.

The federal government must be reinvented under the original principles that made it great in the first place.

Jul 21

Promote Competition

compete
As I get older, I am truly fearing for the future of the United States of America. One of the key reasons is that the federal government has been derelict in its responsibilities to promote competition. In fact, in recent years, it has been doing the opposite and doing everything in its power to reduce competition.

We can remember as little as 15 years ago, that Clinton went after Microsoft because of its dominant position in the market place. Then about 30 years ago, Ronand Reagan succeeded in breaking up AT&T into what was known at the time as the Baby Bells. Whether you agree with these federal actions or not, it is clear that government should play a role in promoting competition in the market place. In fact, going back well over 100 years, Teddy Roosevelt ran and won the presidency with the singular message to Bust the Trusts. Some of the most important federal anti trust regulations still in effect today came from that era.

Competition is essential for capitalism. Competition lower prices for goods and services and gives consumers a multitude of choices for their purchasing dollar. Furthermore, competition creates jobs. The sad fact however is that the federal government is doing absolutely nothing to promote competition. In fact, the federal government is playing a role in stifling competition to the detriment of the very people they supposedly represent.

A good example is the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. From a consumer perspective, there is absolutely no benefit to this merger. Both Comcast and Time Warner are considered to be among the worst in customer satisfaction. As a Time Warner customer, I am stunned on how bad their services, billing, and customer support are and their utter disregard for customer satisfaction. Of course, Time Warner has a monopoly in my area so there are no options.

The reason that Time Warner and Comcast can justify this merger is because the reduced company will enjoy economies of scale. Which is their fancy way of saying that they will start cutting heads. For every head they cut, their stock price will go up another $.01, so they have every incentive to cut as many “redundant” resources as possible. It would have been awesome if Comcast had come into my area and competed with Time Warner, but our federal government is essentially taking that outcome off the table.

Another example are the airlines. It makes me sad that American Airlines has now merged with US Airways. The reality that virtually every frequent flyer knows is that airline travel has turned from a pleasant experience into a mind numbing exercise in greed and stupidity. It was only 10 years ago before all the airlines began to merge, that meals were included in flights, blankets and pillows were available in all classes of services, no change fees, no baggage fees and on and on. When they merged, the airlines promised the government they wouldn’t raise price, so instead they reduced services. There is no good for the anyone except for the stock holders of these airlines and they don’t care since they all fly private airplanes anyhow.

This is not a Republican or Democrat thing. The trend started under George W Bush and has beome even more severe under Obama. Both the Democrat and Republican parties have become slaves to corporate interest and their mega lobbies and the concept of democracy has been temporarily suspended.

Jun 03

Myrtle Beach Day



What a great day at the beach!

May 31

Brookgreen Gardens April 2014



Brookgreen Gardens is awesome!

Jan 29

17 WAYS CHEAP MONEY IS RUINING THE UNITED STATES

Last week I visited one of my banks in South Carolina and they informed me that my interest rate had been lowered to .05%. This is stark contrast to my bank accounts in Brazil where the interest rate has been raised to 10%. To be clear, interest rates in Brazil are 200 times that of the United States. This is not some bizarre Hollywood movie, this is our sad reality in the country that we love. Here are the top 17 reasons why cheap money is ruining the United States and large parts of the world.

1. WE ARE LIVING A LIE

You cannot base an economy on cheap money for a sustainable period of time. Furthermore, once a country / central bank goes down the cheap money road, and it is like a drug, and there is no simple way to reverse course without severe withdrawal symptoms.

2. INFLATION IS EVERYWHERE

By pumping too much money into the economy, it creates inflation where ever you look. It is most pronounced in food prices and other domestic items. The government intentionally excludes food, energy and health care costs from their monthly inflation calculation to further the lie that inflation is moderate.

3. WORK IS IMPORTANT

A good economy is based on the work of its citizens that provide value to itself and that can be exported to the rest of the world. But now, our government wants us to believe that we don’t have to work. Just sit in your house, sign a mortgage and the price will rise, and you don’t have to work to make money. We are in the process of raising a whole generation of young people who don’t understand the value of work.

4. SAVING MONEY IS A VIRTUE

It is a virtue to save money. It teaches us discipline and forces us to prioritize and make choices that make us all better people. But this value has been lost in America. No longer is it important to save money, if we can go into debt. In today’s world, we encourage debt and consumption at the expense of savings.

5. RUINING THE FUTURE

By definition, setting interest rates at 0%, puts no value on the future. We are discounting the future of our children and grand children so that we can party like there is no tomorrow. We live under the false notion that if our future is more pleasant that somehow that translates to a brighter future for our young people. NOT.

6. BIG GOVERNMENT SPIRAL

Cheap money enables our humongous federal government that can mercilessly attack foreign countries without provocation, and create sophisticated spying technologies and progams, all while lower taxes to the richest Americans. The ugly part is that the less the bone headed 0% interest rate plans work, the larger the government becomes in safety nets and bizarre jobs programs like the Orwellian body scanners at your local airport.

7. BANKS OWN THE COUNTRY

When you sign a mortgage document, the bank almost like magic gives you money to buy a house. Behind the scenes, the bank takes title to your house. This is happening in business too. So the American dream is a clever ruse for the banks to own virtually all of the residential and commercial property in the country.

8. HURTING SMALL BUSINESS

The stories are legendary of American entrepreneurs that became incredible successes building a business in a garage. This is no longer true. To start a business today,, the entrepreneur goes to a VC firm, bank or hedge fund, and does a Power Point presentation. They either get their seed money or not. If you are unsuccessful in getting seed money, and you persevere, be aware that your primary competition will be companies that have a healthy dose of cheap money.

When I was a boy, small business was genuinely the engine of the economy. The hardware store, the record store, restaurants and on and on were all small businesses, and now all these segments are owned by Wall Street on a national level.

9. WE HAVE BECOME RISK AVERSE

To be clear, the banks by that I mean the entire financial system is risk averse. It was once the responsibility of the financial sector to analyze and value risk. They no longer do that.

10. THE SYSTEM IS CORRUPT

When you have so much cheap money flying around, it is almost begging for open corruption. We need look no further than the ratings agency fiasco to understand how deep the corruption lies. And the federal government decides to regulate LESS. This means that the entire system is corrupt to its very core.

12. CAPITALISM IS LOST

The problem in the United States is that we no longer have capitalism. We only need to look at health insurance, energy, banking, pharmaceuticals and on and on. The winners and losers in the market place are predetermined by the companies that funnel cheap money into lobbyists in Washington DC.

13. BANKING ELITE

One by product of the cheap money and zero regulation is that we have created a new societal rung of wealth represented primarily by our financial sector. America has a rich history of creating wealth through innovation and the rewards fell to those companies that profoundly improved the productivity of the world. Think Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and more recently Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Michael Dell and so on. The problem with the new banking elite is that they extract their riches from society rather than improving it.

14. PANIC MENTALITY

There is a panic mentality in the world today. We have been programmed to religiously watch the news, as if the next tidbit will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and throws the economy and potentially the world into a tail spin. There are two flaws. America is still strong but our banks are weak. Second, people normally make poor decisions in a panic. A good example is the monstrous bail out in 2008.

15. ITS OUR MONEY

What is the dollar represent? Or any currency for that matter. The dollar represents the future productivity of all the people and companies that transact in it. In China, the RMB translates to the People’s Money. Imagine that. A Communist nation recognizing the fact that the currency is a reflection of the productivity of its people.

When Greenspan, Bernnake, and now Yellen, print enormous amount of money to “stimulate the economy”, they are not taking the money from us. They are moving the money from the future where it would have been used for future productivity. The problem is that many of the citizens of these future generations have not been born yet. Who if not us the citizens are responsible for preventing this type of theft? Each time they print more money, they make the future a little less bright.

16. DIVIDED CITIZENRY

The financial sector is pleased with the present state of affairs. The last thing they want is change. And we have a grid locked Congress, and an inept president. The media focuses on any other issue other than this one. We focus on abortion, gay marriage, et al, instead of the one issue that will impact us and the future of the country itself. The media owned by Wall Street and the federal government does everything in its power to focus the public on any issue other than this. Think about it. In the last two presidential elections, how much time was spent debating or discussing how cheap money is ruining the country?

The people must UNITE for America to work.

17. THE THIRD WORLD WAR AND THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY

The truly scary part is that the people are not united but the banks are. The banks control the American Congress, but the American Central Bank called the Fed, is colluding with other banks throughout the world. Worse yet, there are three banks called the IMF, the World Bank, and the BIS that attempt to control other countries and other banks.

I am speculating here, but the power and money grab is not a problem isolated to the United States. It is happening on a world wide basis, and we the citizens of the world will have to find a solution or there will be an out right war of the magnitude we have not seen in the history of humanity.

Dec 02

Waiting for the Crash


I have read close to 25 books on the financial crisis and what I see happening in the United States truly makes me sad. The Fed is moving jobs from the future to the present at the expense of the young people and people who save money like myself.

I have also been playing old protest songs from the 60′s on my guitar. So this is my attempt at writing a modern protest song. Songs today have so little message.

Dec 02

Washington DC Vacation



Although I grew up in the Washington DC area, I never spent a lot of time exploring all the tourist things in the area. We went to the National Air and Space Museum, Museum of National History, and one day it was quite cold but we wandered the mall and snapped a lot of photos.

Aug 25

Lagoa Bonita (3/4 Photo Sets)



Our favorite trip from the hotel was to Lagoa Bonita. This tour was not as popular as Lagoa Azul and for that one reason, we were the only people at this site. There were seven of us in total. The four in my family, two men that drove their motorcycles from SŃo Paulo (10 days on the road), and the tour guide. The views were more stunning than Lagoa Azul, and the only downside is that Lagoa Bonita is a little further from the hotel. This is offset by the fact that we didn’t lose as much time collecting the other riders and waiting for them. The kids had an awesome time. I am really surprised at how few children we saw because it is a great place for kids.

Aug 21

Solange Lenšˇis Maranheses Shoot (2/4 Photo Sets)



The setting for this photo shoot is Lagoa Bonita. Amazingly enough, the view here was even more stunning than Lagoa Azul and we were the only tourists there. We essentially had the entire area to ourselves to swim, jump on the dunes and of course take pictures.

It was an amazingly sunny day and I decided to do a photo set just of my beautiful wife. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 20

Lagoa Azul (1/4 Photo Sets)



This will be the first of four photo sets from a marvelous vacation that we took in Brazil. The place is called Lenšˇis Maranheses, and it is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It is one of the candidates for the seven natural wonders of the world.

Lenšˇis Maranheses is far from the beaten of Rio de Janeiro and SŃo Paulo. From Rio, it is a 3.5 hour plane ride north to a small airport called SŃo Luis. From there, we rented a car and drove for 4 hours east to reach our hotel.

Our first trip was roughly a 45 minute dune buggy ride from the hotel, crossing the mighty Rio Preguiša. Lagoa Azul is the most popular trip and there were perhaps about 12 buggies that took the trip with us. The sites were stunning and perhaps because it is so far from the rest of the world, Teddy and Jesse were the only kids on these trips. They had a great time and we took a lot of photos.

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