Thursday, 26 May 2016

Why We Use the Term Communism Today

Once upon a time, a Welsh by the name of Robert Owen came to America.

Owen had been able to turn an industry around, make a significant amount of money, and make a name for himself.  Along the way, he got charged up....there in England....on the idea of socialism.

In the 1790s....he had somehow found through effort, planning and luck....a business structure that succeed.  His gimmick that made him different?  He actually went on a move to make the work atmosphere workers fair pay, a good atmosphere, and  in return got better production than his competition.

All of this led Owen to the idea of developing socialism.  He needed plenty of open land and territory to make this work.

So in 1824, he brought a fair amount of money into the Indiana Wabash River area, and created New Harmony.  This was supposed to be a massive farm, which had a lumbermill, farming operation, school, etc.  Everyone would cooperate.....share in the wealth....and operate under a very liberal atmosphere.  He attracted in the early stages a lot of free thinkers, opportunists, and people just looking for something different in life.

What can be said is that roughly a thousand people came into the operation, and within six was already headed toward a doomed failure.

Most of what you can say about it today is that people got jealous of people doing easy work to make their place in the community versus those who were doing work that had significant dollars coming in.

Owen took the bulk of his fortune from England to make this work, and within twelve months.....had to modify the concept a good bit to make the people happy.  Almost every other month.....people were leaving or in-fighting created another chaotic mess for him to clean up.

By 1827, the utopia project was crapped out.  Owen sold off what he had and left.

Around five to ten years after this....some journalists came into the New Harmony area to ask questions and try to get locals who had been part of the deal to talk about the experience.  Most didn't want to say anything.  They considered socialism (exactly what Owen called it) be a utter failure.
So roughly twenty years after this failed experiment with's a curious thing.

Karl Marx and Charles Engels sat around and had discussed publishing their Manifesto to cover their utopia ideas.  They had read the pamphlets of Owens, and admired all his talk about the better world that we could manufacture.

So in this period 1846 and 1847, as they read and talked to others....getting their 23-page document ready....they were still using the word socialism as the objective.  Somewhere in this talk with other people....they were told in strong words by different people of the identification of failure with the Owens experiment with socialism.  This failure.....noted by American journalists and British newspapers had soured people with socialism.

Who knows the moment of decision or how they debated this, but eventually, Engels and Marx came around to this idea....removing the word socialism and using the word communism instead.

So as the publisher got the basic draft was the Communist Manifesto instead of the Socialist Manifesto.

Owens?  You might ask about him at this point.  He died ten years after the Communist Manifesto was published (death in 1858).   From the late 1820s to 1858.....success eluded him for the most part.  He had enough income to survive, but his ideals and business views weren't shared by the bulk of English businessmen.  There's not much of a comment from Owens over the Manifesto or if he shared the ideals that Engels and Marx had.

We live with the term communism today....only because of a failed three-year experiment with socialism.  Curious piece of history.

The Robot Generation

I will likely live long enough to occasionally face robots in daily life......I've come to accept this idea now.    This discussion that continues to come up about the $15 an hour pay scale for burger flippers will be what drives this change in society.

There are some marvelous benefits to McDonalds going toward robot-flippers.

1.  There is no over-time issue.

2.  You flip the switch at 5AM to prep the opening and the robots are there (on time).

3.  You don't worry about drug-tests or some guy showing up half-drunk for his shift.

4.  If the order says extra sauce and extra onions, it's delivered right 100-percent of the time.

5.  Robots don't stink (unless the maintenance guy screws up).

6.  Robots don't whine, freak-out, grip, or sob.

7.  Robots don't need to be told over and over about directives or standards.

8.  Robots don't ask you to repeat your order five times.

9.  Robots don't steal from the business.

10.  Robots will work around the clock.

11.  Robots will never pay state taxes or require healthcare from the company.

12.  Robots don't take smoke-breaks.

13.  Robots don't get the flu.

14.  Robots don't miss their shifts.

15.  Robots don't waste resources.

In the end, the crowd pressing for the $15 an hour salary will have sealed their doom and ended their brilliant career with McDonalds or any of the burger operations.  Maybe via 7-11 or some grocery/department store.....some may still have a chance.  But the bulk of the burger-flippers in America are looking at the last ten years of their career right now.  We need to label them...."the robot generation".

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Just Something To Wonder About

Donald Trump brought up the Vince Foster episode today.....which is tied back to Hillary and Bill Clinton from 1993.  He didn't say much, but a quote gets picked up and people go back to discuss this matter again.

I went and did some old research and there's this one odd thing that stands out today.

Vince Foster is found in the Fort Marcy Park....on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, near Chain Bridge.

It's a unique location.....mostly because VIPs all live next to the park on the Virginia side.  In 1993, from approximately 600 to 700 feet away from where the body is the residence of the Saudi ambassador to DC.   Cops did ask if the guards heard any shots from that evening, which they have an active patrol and people out there protecting the guy, and they said no.

Today, that seems odd because within 700'd hear a gunshot.

So, I went off to read up on Foster, and the Saudis.  There is this odd relationship and function for Foster.....he's the insider guy for Saudis to get quick and easy visas with the Clinton administration.  No one ever mentions this much.

This house that the Saudi ambassador lives in on road next to Chain Bridge?  It's curious because around March of 1993.....he bought the house next door to him.....which makes that house only 500 feet away from the area of the body.

Two ultra up-scale homes owned by the royal family?  Yeah.  Not unusual, but you have to wonder.....who was the guest of the 2nd home around the night of Foster dying.

So, you go back to March of 1993, and there's this odd piece of US history.....this was when the first attempt was made by some radicals (Saudi-background) on the North Tower of the World Trade Tower.  It was a utter failure.  Cops got the guys involved, and people just wrote it down as good police work.

After this attempt, you get to a point of wondering....since episode one failed....could someone within the royal family group have the enthusiasm to attempt a quick come-back and needs to bring a couple of guys into the US with a quick visa.....and Foster asks some really stupid questions at this meeting because he wonders about the March attack and the connection of the Saudis?

Twenty years one ever said much about the Saudis and connectivity to 9-11.  Today?  You just look over the visa business, money being spread around, and just start to ask stupid questions about who was on the inside of what, and did something wicked happen to a guy who just stumbled onto some bold terrorist agenda?

Trump brings this up.....but with things in the open just makes you wonder.....who was staying at the 2nd residence of the ambassador on the night of Foster being found.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The Cleric Story

One of the memos from the 9-11 Commission was released by the National Archives yesterday, and the NY Times posted it.  Forty-odd pages.

What the FBI says....hits a particular gut-point around page 7 when they note that such-and-such guy to be within the attack....meets with the Saudi diplomat in California.....but the FBI identifies this diplomat as both diplomat AND cleric.

It's like mixing the skills of librarian and professional bear hunter.  They don't mix.

This cleric?  Fahad al-Thumairy.

I went did some research.  He was sent to California for the Saudi annex on the west coast in 1996.  At the time, he was 24 years old and his chief field of studies was Islam.

What department did he serve in?  Cultural studies.

It's a curious story over this guy.  For 9-11, we basically did nothing except note his involvement.  We didn't expel or detain him.

At some point in the spring of 2003 (April-time frame), it appears that the guy left California for some period elsewhere.  In May, he tries to return to the US from Frankfurt, and the customs guys stop him with the diplomatic passport....refusing to let him enter the US.  He's been put on a 'bad-boy' list and cannot enter the US for at least five years.

My guess is that the US watched the guy and noted that he'd left the country, and moved to change his status, and never allow the guy back in, but make this a small episode instead of presenting paperwork to anger the Saudis.

He leaves the US.

Nothing much out there exists on this guy, since May of 2003.  He's now in his mid-40's.

The odds that he's in some other country....posted as a diplomat and cleric there?  Better than fifty percent chance.

Sunday, 15 May 2016


I spent this weekend at a late 1800's hotel in Kassel, Germany.

One of the key things of interest in this old that just about everything in it....was grounded.

The radiator pipes leading into the room.....grounded.

The water drainage pipes?  Grounded.

I looked at the way it was done.....not the stuff from some amateur or fly-by-night guy.....all professionally done.

Why?  Unknown.

Maybe Kassel has more lightning than normal.  Maybe the hotel (sitting on a ridge of town) has more lightning strikes than normal.  Maybe they've had five or six guests struck by lightning.

In my Air Force years....we grounded a couple of buildings and facilities.....usually from 'big' hits and simply lessons learned.  But I can't recall a hotel or regular building having this kind of effort made.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The Phone Story

There was a fair sized article on Fox News today about Hillary and the secure phone.

For those who've never used a secure's an interesting experience.  I spent roughly twenty years of my life.....connected to the phone.  At one point.....I actually had one on my desk for five years.

Hillary's chief whine about not wanting to use it.....and go use just a regular talk sensitive or classified matters?  This is mostly about the pitch and static in the background.

Well, yeah.....that's what you get with the secure phone.

In the early 1980s....the only choice of phone was the STU-II.  If you wanted to rate the ability to hear and grasp the conversation.....on a scale of one to was probably a '5' at best.  The guy could have been sitting fifty feet away, and it still didn't matter.  The talker had to speak clearly and distinctively.....without any funny accent.....and at a very slow speed.

I had to sit one day and react to a request, and the guy had a fast-paced dialect, and a deep southern accent.  I probably had him repeat everything he least three times.

In the late 1980s.....they came out with the STU-III.  Things improved (well....anything would be an improvement).  I'd rate the ability to hear and grasp the conversation.....on a call of one to ten.....near a '7'.  But this depended greatly on the line, and you could still have some guy calling from some installation or location where the lines were crappy (like Italy for example).

So I look at Hillary and this whole secure phone problem of hers, and understand the negativity.  The sad thing about her choice that a dozen-odd countries were probably listening in and got her entire conversation.

If you voted into office as President?  My guess is that she'd toss out the secure phones and just use regular phones.  Maybe that's a negative.....maybe it doesn't really matter.  She might even go and toss the red-phone on the desk that connects to Putin.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Obama Administration Foreign Policy Blunders

Generally, I could probably suggest over forty screw-ups for this administration, and just as many for the Bush or Clinton Administration.  Foreign policy means risk, and continual adjustments....which is something that most political administrations aren't capable of taking on.

For this essay, I'll limit my pick to ten:

1.  The Russia 'Reset' idea.  On day one, with Secretary of State Clinton at the head.....the effort was to reset all of the past Russia-US screw-up's and start fresh on some new agenda.  The problem is....there never was a clear there never was a 'reset'.  The gimmick was bogus and worked well for marginal reporters to continually talk over the subject but never show any constructive relationships.  The personal relationship between Putin and Obama?  Non-existent and you can see by body language that Obama really doesn't like having to be int he presence of Putin.

2.  Arab Spring involvement.  Whether it was just insiders to the Obama administration helping, or staff members of the administration helping....the whole connection of the Obama administration to Arab Spring....has been a failure.  There's not a single country that went through the Arab Spring process.....that has any kind of positive story to tell.  Some people now believe that Arab Spring was some college thesis paper that the Saudis got pepped up on, and insiders to the administration agreed upon.  In twenty years, historians will have problems in telling the story because it has some many loose ends.

3.  Benghazi.  Five Americans are dead (one is an ambassador).  Any number of idiots could have stood up and raised some flag and ordered some help to be sent.....yet never made a single move.  It isn't a slam against President Obama himself, but the next ten people after that....who could have done something, and just sat and watched.

4.  ISIS.  In the beginning stages of Arab Spring in Syria, you could see through the groups and readily identify ISIS even at this point as being a future problem.  Nothing was said.....nothing was done, and today, you have major security threats throughout the Middle East, Europe and most expect the ISIS thugs to eventually reach the US.

5.  Crimea.  When the whole Ukraine episode was falling apart (thanks partially to the EU dimwits).....there could have been a cooling off period suggested by a competent US president and some avenues explored to fix the Crimea issue.  Instead, nothing was done, and it sits today as a wannabe country attached to Russia.  Before the annexation, Crimea did enjoy a fair amount of tourism....which meant cash flowed through the coastal areas of the region.  Today?  Who wants to tour the Crimea?

6.  Calling ISIS "JV" (Junior Varsity).  It was a off-the-cuff comment, which the President probably picked up from one of his trusted advisers.  In the news just kept rolling and being used daily by news media experts.  Most people laugh about it now.

7.  Using the Keystone pipeline episode as some international crisis and involving the State Department.  You can twist this forty different ways and it's just comical how the State Department staked out their position and this continually was used as the problem to overcome.

8.  Bowe Bergdahl swap.  Within twenty-four hours after the swap was announced....the administration was already realizing that Bergdahl was some loser and this whole deal was more about getting rid of five more Gitmo prisoners than getting Bergdahl back.

9.  The Fast and Furious clean-up.  Part of the Fast and Furious mess was created by the Bush team, but the Obama administration was incompetent at fixing or resolving the mess.  It still lingers there, waiting for some federal judge or competent source to fix.

10.  The 2009 Green Revolution.  This was the start up of Arab Iran.  Oddly, the administration stood there and did practically nothing in this one single case (unlike the other Arab Springs), and the whole revolution attempt in Iran just died off quickly.  To this date, no one in the administration can explain why this was such a marginal effort.....compared to the other dozen attempts.

The one major positive?  Cuba.  After fifty long years....they dismantled the whole trade embargo, and will now turn Cuba into the fifty-first state (at least economically).  Sadly, the Cubans will lose their look and be more like Miami within five years.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

The News is Not the News

“Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing."

-- Ben Rhodes, White House Adviser

About a decade ago, sitting and watching the last year or two of the Bush administration, I came to this point of watching some Sunday political chat show and the moderator leading four people around.  I came to this conclusion that none of the four people really knew much of anything.  They were "experts".....they were foundation-talking-heads.....they were wannabe journalists....they were lacking in every sense of the word.

All the network was doing....was filling air-time.  They hustled up some people who had some education....knew some $40-words....and could bluff you on what their real knowledge was about.

This is why journalists sit there now....getting insider notes from some lobbyist or White House insider, and write some piece that strangely looks like a dozen other reports from White House reporters.  They are publicists for the administration or the people who want to dump on the administration.

I read a piece this week by some journalists who'd been hired by Facebook to help in a news project.  They were whining about the project, the treatment by the Facebook management staff, and general stuff.  The impression I got was that Facebook was looking for a way to develop a algorithm to write news articles....slanted one way for particular type of reader, and another for the opposite type reader.  In the end, it was just computer-produced news.

I think we've reached a point where news has zero value, and some people have recognized that.   News in some ways....simply isn't news anymore.  It's a production of some opera....which plays out in your mind and based on the introduction and the fat lady singing toward the end.....the message you get is variable.  Kinda sad, if you think about it.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Ponzi 101

My brother and I got into a discussion this week....mostly related to finance and ponzi-related schemes.  My general observation is that the public....because of declining CD rates over the past three decades, poor finance understanding, and lousy SEC enforcement....allows these schemes to flow like a stream.  You can probably draw a 100 mile circle around your house and find at least two or three schemes actively working, until someone asks stupid questions or the SEC wakes up from their drug-induced daze to figure out the ponzi values on the operation.

So, my ten tips on seeing through the ponzi fog and knowing when to just walk away.

1.  When you sell securities, you have to be registered in your state.  So when "Joe Jones" is talking up this bond, or this new fund, or investment deal.....ask he registered?  If he says yes....go Goggle up the state board on securities in your state, and call them up.  If we were talking about a $40'd be a waste of time, I admit.  But if you are writing out a check for $10,000....the guy accepting it ought to be registered.  If he's not, then just walk away.  If he says that he's a special type of securities seller and not required by state law to be registered.....he's lying, and you need to walk away.

2.  Who is the guy at the top?  Every funds guy has a name, and has a resume.  If he's some fifty-year old guy who has worked at Janus, Prudential, etc....he has a reputation.  If he's a guy who has a three-line resume or simply sold real estate for the past twenty years, or never been in actual big-time companies.....WALK away.  When the securities dealer just wants to talk over the fund, and NOT the guy who manages the fund, or even discuss the manager's past performance....WALK away.

3.  Guaranteed returns in excess of three or four percent.  Typically, with a decent high-value today's world....the max you will get is two-percent.  With some long-term bond, maybe four percent.  Beyond that, nothing is guaranteed.  It doesn't matter how many times they utter guaranteed or flash some slide on the wall with guaranteed 10-percent interest....WALK away.  Now, if they talk about stocks, dividends, and locking you into a present return (not guaranteed) of ten to twenty percent, that's a different story.  I can find fifty stocks presently on the NASDAQ which are seriously under-priced (particularly oil and natural gas)....these are all stocks which lost value, but return a quarterly dividend of five to twenty percent currently (yearly).  I should note though....these aren't guaranteed, and at any point, the present value might decrease another 10-to-40 percent.   In this case, the dividend might be attractive, but could you afford to lose 10-percent of your value with the risk attached?

4.  Secret or privileged investor knowledge.  When the securities guy says he has insider knowledge and by getting into this special group and putting your $100,000 can be an "insider".  So, one of the general rules of a state securities that you aren't supposed to take insider information and benefit.  It's something that the SEC frowns upon.  It's a small sign that you've got a guy who bends the rules.

5.  Cash investment.  If your securities guy is talking about you investing and doing this by cash avoid transfer fees or paperwork.....that's another sign to just walk away.

6.  Name the companies.  When the investor guru talks up the twenty-percent yearly return (guaranteed of course)....ask him to name the companies that he buys from.  A ponzi scheme guy will typically say it's not regular stock but related to the cruise-boat line, foreign capital situations, or resort opportunities.  They will avoid bringing up actual real stocks because you can Google up NASDAQ and view their yearly dividend payouts.  There are actual new resorts being bundled and built yearly, but none of these are guaranteed (note how that word keeps coming up).  If the guru says five or six stocks....what are they and what's the typical yearly dividend?  You can find that via a dozen ways.  Most stocks (probably ninety-percent) pay less than two-percent a year on how that manipulates itself into 20-percent guaranteed ought to be another sign to just walk away.

7.  The frozen funds slant.  When the guru says that with your $100,000 are an insider now....he'll often hint that there's a period of frozen activity so he can safely and wisely invest and return dividends on your money.  This frozen period is a minimum of six months and usually up to two years.  He might actually generate some fine and fancy monthly reports which always make you happy about the frozen money and active dividend status of the money.  Maybe early on in the Ponzi scheme....if you asked for $5,000 back for some emergency, he might be agreeable.  Near the end, when he's going to reason will be acceptable to return even a nickle of your investment money.  This is different from a bank where you open a CD, and can close the CD tomorrow....losing the profits off the period that you promised to maintain the CD there.  In this case, the bank will return the money that day (in most cases).

8.  "Double your money back".  It's a wicked phrase, and the minute you hear it....WALK away.

9.  The claim of non-taxation.  Typically, a good Ponzi-scheme will note that a fair amount of it's gimmick is to go overseas, make profits without taxation in those countries, and then quietly return the money to you....."tax-free".  Very few countries operate without taxation....those that do....are places of risk.  I always sounds good.  But other than a dozen-odd states which operate low pay-out bonds which are tax-free but rarely pay more than two-percent dividend a year....this is a bothersome topic and rarely fits into a high dividend gimmick of Ponzi schemes.

10.  Everything seems vague.  If you walked into a Ford dealership and he started talking about a new "Wonder-Czeyzch engine", "duplo-tires", "carto-duloony-traction".  You'd stop the Ford kid and ask what the heck these were, and you'd want to have a full explanation in simple terms....before you put down $20,000 for this new car.  When the securities guy or guru starts using new and unusual terms....always vague in detail....stop him and ask for full definitions.  If the definitions are simply vague definitions or full of more $'s a sign to walk away.  Nothing is vague about a bank CD.  Nothing is vague about buying a plain Janus Twenty-Fund.  Nothing is vague about New York state tax-free bonds.

One final note....if any part of a guru's 'get-rich-quick' scheme is about gold speculation....why would you bother using him as a middle-man, when you can buy your own gold coins, bars, just avoiding this middle-to-the-middle man routine?  Gold is pure speculation though, and the prices change hour by hour.....which makes it's attachment to a guaranteed 20-percent dividend to be hilarious and comical.

It simply doesn't take a rocket scientist to recognize a Ponzi scheme.  It does take some brave just smile and walk away.

I could have made this a forty-page introduction, but these ten observations are usually enough for a high school educated guy to see through the Ponzi-fog and be smart enough to walk away.