Budget Cuts Conundrum

G-d Over Money.jpeg

So I’m hearing two opposing themes about the proposed federal budget cuts:


1) It’s horrible because we are cutting into the bone and this is going to really hurt a lot of important government programs.


2) It’s great because we have been spending money that we don’t really have, and we need to finally reign it in. 


Let’s face it, we’ll never get such drastic cuts across the civilian government unless this country goes into severe crisis mode–which never happens until it’s too late and something terrible has happened. 


If we even got half the cuts being proposed–which most people don’t seem to believe will even happen–that would be significant and painful itself. 


The truth of the matter is that we are facing enormous danger on both the national security and financial fronts!


– Militarily–Russia, China, Iran, North Korea pose huge threats including those involving weapons of mass destruction. 


– Financially–We have a serious national debt to the tune of $20 trillion, an annual trade deficit of half a trillion dollars, and social security and medicare trust funds that are going bankrupt. 


If we let these threats run their course, we will eventually have a crisis that will be truly nationally catastrophic. 


So what’s it gonna be–guns or butter–or national bankruptcy. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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Are We Leading The World To The Brink

apocalypse

Thanks to some of the worst leadership in generations, we are bringing the world to the brink of disaster.



In 1991, at the end of the Cold War and with nuclear disarmament initiatives underway, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists rated us at 17 minutes to midnight (the best it’s ever been) on the famous Doomsday Clock that represents the countdown to global disaster. 


However by 2007, right before this administration, with far greater concerns of a nuclear terrorist attack, we were down to just 5 minutes to midnight.


And now in 2016, we are at a mere 3 minutes to midnight, and “the probability of global catastrophe is very high,” as “world leaders had failed to act!”


Moreover, with the current slate of candidates for Presidency both receiving negative ratings of about 60% from registered voters, there is obviously great consternation by the people of the U.S. as well as the rest of the world on the direction we are going in or lack thereof. 


Again today, flailing on the leadership front in Syria, almost 6 years into the war there, we are again “considering tougher options” after the “red lines” were eviscerated, plan B never went anywhere, and we acknowledged that “we have no good options” there, while Russia is bringing in the big guns!


In dangerous world situations, the wrong action by leadership can spark an escalation and lead to negative consequences, but no action, displaying uncertainty and weakness, or attempting a losing appeasement strategy can lead to an even more emboldened enemy and then the Doomsday Clock can strike midnight and we can all pretty much just say one last goodnight. 
😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Does Every Problem Have A Solution?

Hands

So someone said something interesting to me yesterday.


They were going off about this and that problem in the world. 


Then seemingly exasperated by the current and desperate state of affairs, they go “You know what? Not every problem has a solution.”


And that really took me aback.


As a student and then a professional, I have always prided myself on looking for a solution to every problem. 


Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t, but I was always taught to try!


Now someone says to me this earth-shattering news that maybe there is not a good solution out there for every catastrophic problem.


So this got me thinking…


Maybe some problems are just too big or too complex for our mortal minds to even understand or our supercomputers to really solve. 


Or perhaps sometimes things have gone too far or are too far gone, and we can’t always easily just turn back the clock.


Are there some things that we can’t really make right what we did so wrong for so long, despite the best intentions now. 


And in life are some things just a catch-22 or a zero-sum game–where every way forward is another dead end or it has consequences which are too painful or otherwise unacceptable. 


This sort of reminds me of the sick brutal Nazi in the Holocaust who took a women with two beautiful young children to the side and said, “Choose!”


“Choose what?” she innocently replies.


And the sadistic Nazi pulling out his gun says, “Choose which of your children will live and which will die, you have 30 seconds or I kill them both!”


Indeed, some problems have no good solution as hard as that is for me to hear or accept.  


All we can do is our best, and even when we can’t satisfactorily solve those completely vexing problems to us (because some things are not in the realm of the possible for mere mortals), we have to continue to go forward in life because there really is no going back. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Time Runs Out – What Are We To Believe?

Lama

Time runs out, but we are still chasing highly elusive goals (just some examples): 


1) Iran – Time runs out on deadline for a nuke deal even after “the framework” was supposedly set three months ago. And as Iran’s Supreme Leader and the Iranian Parliament chant death to America, can we really believe that Iran will ever truly give up their pusuit of nuclear weapons of mass destruction (and terrorism) to use on you know who?  


2) Greece – Time runs out on an extension of more Greek bailout funds, and they default on payment to the International Monetary Fund potentially leading to their exit from the Euro and the EU. With a Greek debt of $271 billion, can we really believe they will ever be able to repay this? 


3) Social Security and Medicare – Time is running out on the solvency of our own social entitlement system in the U.S.  For example, the Social Security Disability Trust Fund runs dry already next year in 2016, Medicare is exhausted by 2030 and Social Security by 2033. With just 16 and 19 years of funding left for these major programs that tens of millions depend on, can we really believe that magically we will dig our way out of this mega mess of a financial hole? 


4) Global Warming – Time is running out on cutting carbon emissions leading to global warming and catastrophic climate change. With global warming denial still in vogue and reluctance by the industrial nations to significantly cut back on emissions in time, can we really believe that catastrophic enviornment damage will be averted? 


5) War – Time is runing out as potential for eventual war looms on the horizon with China, says respected DoD Futurist, Peter Singer. With disputes in the South China Sea and with Taiwan, China bulking up on advanced weapons, and the U.S. pivoting to Asia, the fears of a serious confrontation are there. Similarly, with Russia and it’s annexation of Crimea and ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine, threats to it’s Balkan neighbors, confrontations on the European borders, and an increasingly nuclear and militant Russia, the Cold War is heating up. The last world war ended 70 years ago, can we really believe that the peace will continue to prevail with powerful adversaries in turbulent and uncertain times? 


Yes, hopes and dreams are important, but real concrete action is too or time will simply run out and then what? 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

It’s Not Working

Fix Me

So it’s human nature to want to leave the world a better place than before we got here.


But you wouldn’t know it by how things are looking the last number of years.


Here’s just the latest from reports this week:


1) The Global Peace Index: “World is less peaceful today than in 2008…Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago.”


2) A Record Year In Misery: “The world has never seen a refuge crisis this bad…last year saw the total number of forcibly displaced persons rise to 59.5 million, an all time high.” This is due to world conflict, general violence, human rights violations, and persecution.”


3) Climate Apocalypse: “A child born today may live to see humanity’s end…[as a result of] overcrowding, denuded resources, and climate change…dangerous climate change is already here. The question is can we avoid catastrophic climate change.”


4) Americans Have Lost Confidence In Everything: “It not just Congress [and the President] and the economy that have Americans concerned these days…All in all, it’s a picture of a nation discouraged about its present and worried about its future, and highly doubtful that its institutions can pull America out of its trough.


Maybe the worst thing is that many people are deluding themselves that everything is hunky dory. 


But isn’t it time for some real wins again? 


To do that we need genuine good old fashioned elbow grease–that means we start with a strategy that actually tackles the issues rather than kicking the can down the road. We need honesty, not political upmanships and swell soundbite cliches. 


What good is appeasement to the masses now, if it means their utter despair or demise later–for example, why should we be Greece on the brink of national bankruptcy, if instead we can be Norway with the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world? 


Then comes the hard work, fortitude, and commitment to turn the tide on the bad news and losses. This mean personal and national sacrifice now in order to have better times for our children and grandchildren. 


G-d is watching us, our children are questioning us, the needy are looking to us. 


We are working hard, but it’s hardly working! 


Maybe we need to make this real simple: “Little Johnny, now take your medicine, and stop fighting Mommy, p-lease!”  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why We Expect Nothing

Why We Expect Nothing

I took this photo of a sign at the Metro station to the Reagan National Airport by Washington, D.C.

“Expect The Unexpected” is the warning.

Don’t be complacent–anything can happen–be vigilant–is the message.

It reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about people going to the beach and hiding their wallets in their shoes.

Like, a criminal would never think to check your shoe!

Oh, push the wallet all the way down to the toes, under the tongue, that way the bad guys will never be able to get to it.

Here, it’s more a case of of why don’t we expect the darn expected.

Everybody knows that people “hide” their valuables at the beach in their shoes!

In modern times, we seem blind though to any expectations at all.

– Arab Spring and civil war spreading into Syria and Iraq–after Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, and more–who would’ve thought?

– Russia taking over Crimea and agitating in Eastern Ukraine–after their little excursions into Georgia and Chechnya–who would expect that?

– Financial meltdowns and major recession after the dot com and housing bubbles–even my barber was talking about retiring and buying a mansion in the Caribbean–where are these coming from?

The question then is are we really unable to see past our noses or do we just hold steadfast to principle that ignorance is bliss?

Well let’s just test the “expect nothing doctrine” that we seem to all be living by these days and see how you feel about these:

  • North Korea–they would never invade the South again.
  • Iran–sure, they are going to give up their nuclear weapons and their greater Middle Eastern Caliphate ambitions.
  • China–Yeah, we’ll just pin them in the South China Sea and they’ll never get out.
  • The national deficit–it’s not and will never be too big for us to handle because we’re rich.
  • Terrorism in a major American city–not after 9/11 and all that Homeland Security.
  • Environmental catastrophe–we will build a big bubble over ourselves, so no problem.
  • Economic inequity–the top 1% deserves to control 43% of the Nation’s wealth and everyone else just sit down and shut up.
  • The Singularity–how could a machine ever be smarter than us; we’ve got all the technology fully under our control.

Well, if you are blind or dumb enough to believe these, just keep putting your money in your shoes at the beach, because there is no reason to expect that anyone would ever think to look for it there. 😉

Rise Oceans Rise

Rise Oceans Rise

The polar ice caps are melting–does anyone believe it or care?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Antarctica alone holds 60% of the world’s fresh water “locked into millions of cubic miles of polar ice.”

NASA glaciologists states: “Ice is going to retreat in this sector for decades and centuries to come and we can’t stop it.”

In other words, we may have “reached the point of no return.”

Sea levels are seen rising 10 to 12 feet–that’s almost 1.8 x Magic Johnson across all our oceans!

The New York Times says that just a four foot rise would inundate cities like New York, Boston, Miami, and New Orleans.

WTOP reports that the impact will not just be in low-lying cities but even Washington, DC along the Chesapeake Bay is at great risk.

And while over time barriers may be able to be built up around DC to protect it, other areas like New York City is “almost unenclosable.”

Global warming has is changing our earth’s ecosystems, and like the National Deficit, we can try to prove it false, ignore it, or hope for a technological breakthrough or miracle to save us.

Yes, there are lot’s of doom and gloom scenarios, and it’s hard to know when to take catastrophe seriously and when it is Chicken Little.

While I wouldn’t go looking for high ground just yet, maybe that Miami oceanfront–as much as I love it–may not be the best long-long term investment around. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)