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Greek Debt is the new Orange Vol 68

“You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing – after they have tried everything else” ! – Winston Churchill

Every time I read Paul Krugman discussing debt, my head explodes. Krugman, the famed Nobel economist and NY Times columnist, has been waxing on lately about debt in general, and specifically how the EU should be treating Greece. As a Boomer with most of my assets in housing, the subject of debt is my major retirement worry, on many levels.

First some numbers, to keep the economists among us happy and really scare the rest of us. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, world governmental and household debt is now over $200 Trillion. Yes, you read right. Trillion !!! With world GDP in the $70 Trillion range, we now owe over 250% of our income. While some countries are de-leveraging since the 2008 economic meltdown, some countries are growing their debt, China being the biggest. In this context, Greece looks to be a very minor problem at best. Slap their wrists, allow them to have a reasonable payment, or some combination of repay and forgiveness plan. We have much bigger issues to fix. How the EU handles Greece however, could be very instructive

Back to Krugman. His main argument is that our debt is not the issue ! We think of household, credit card, and student load debt at important for the family to deal with. World debt however, is immaterial in a time of historically low interest rates. We are supposed to spend money now, to get back to full growth, and then repay the loans in good times. Unfortunately, the Liberal Krugman does not explain why we did not do this the last time we had a chance to curtail our spending, and pay down the national debt. He only sees the spend side of the equation, and somehow is blind to the lack of repayment when we had the chance. When the Tea Party and other groups clamor for some fiscal prudence, he writes them off as austerity nuts.

His other argument is that we just owe the monies to ourselves, so why worry, as we will not foreclose on ourselves. Wrong ! Aside from the government bonds owned by Japan and China, who will need to sell them at some point to fund their elder/rural populations needs, Boomers will be needing that money to fund their own retirement, and we are starting to foreclose now. Think of the CHIP mortgage plans, where you borrow against the value of your house, to buy groceries or travel. Where does that money come from ? Straight out of your kids inheritance.

The point is, debt is the new Orange. It appears free, so why not take as much as you want ? Without a price or consequence, we become addicted. There have been lots of past examples of this insanity, the latest being the 2008 financial crisis, but everyone needs examples of the real cost of this borrowing behaviour. Austerity causes hardship, but if that is what it takes to get thru our hard heads, then bring it on. let Greece be the latest example.

It has to be noted that Greece is also feeling pain because of its socialist leanings. We talk about Greece being in a depression as its GDP falls, but it can be argued that a large percentage of their economy was false. People were paid to do nothing, not even having to show up for work. Austerity is also a wake-up call to governments everywhere to get more efficient.

As you can see, Boomer debt is our main problem as a generation, and not fixing it will shift its burden to the next generation. They will ask the right question, where did the money go, and we will not have a good answer.

I would love for Krugman to do an article and explain where the Trillions went. How did we get this way ? Was it all spent on healthcare ? Who has the money, as it sure was not destroyed ? Show us where it went, and we can try to get some of it back !

You start to see how Greece is the canary in the coalmine. If the EU treats the Greeks like an adult child living in your basement in need of tough love, they will force restructuring of their way of life, and cause huge societal damage. If they consider the Greeks to be an aging parent who needs our help to sustain their life, then some form of forgiveness will be agreed. See, its all about family, no matter what Krugman says.

As noted, Greece is a minor issue. Imagine those scenarios playing out globally ? Lenders suddenly realizing that their chances of repayment are diminishing, asking for their money back, and no-one being able to find the cash. This is the Gloom scenario, similar to what happened in 2007 / 2008, but on a global scale, No money, then no loans, then no spending, then no jobs, then no pensions, then anarchy.

If on the other hand, what if we go the Boomer scenario, a route Joseph Stiglitz discussed in a recent article ( Europe Should be giving Greece a Break ), and Krugman’s preferred approach. Like an aging parent who we love, who made some mistakes in life, we take them in, and forgive them. Maybe they get a stern lecture, and their bank books are confiscated, but they live life comfortably. Unfortunately, the holders of that debt lose everything. Since that debt has been diffused around the world, we all almost certainly own a piece of it. So, we will all be poorer for the forgiveness, but like an insurance policy, the risk will be individually minimal. The biggest hit will be the 1% who have a larger share of the paper assets. That might be the best way to solve inequality !

Greece will probably get a piece of both solutions. They will have to transform their economy, inject some realism into their citizens, but in a way that allows for a soft landing. The other option is too fraught with the lesson the rest of the world will learn – hunker down, because you could be the next victim.

As a Boomer approaching retirement, your overriding priority is to pay down all debt. Only then, will you have some say over your financial future in a world full of angst !

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , our favourite fantasy’s ?

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Are you a Boomer or a Gloomer ? Vol 66

“Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak” ! – author unknown

In today’s world, there seem, at least from my perspective, to be two opposite positions on where this planet is heading. Either you are a Gloomer, who believes that a plague is about to kill us all, WW3 is about to start in Ukraine, Greece will cause the EU collapse, the FED is causing deflation and a recession by printing money, insert your own doomsday scenario … you get the picture.

Or, you believe that we are doing better. Islam is now going to work to solve its own internal issues without outside interference or someone else to blame, our over consumption is finally on the wane, saving resources and the climate, human rights have never been more possible, science and technology will fix our health, solar is overtaking oil as a fuel, insert your own feel good story … you are a Boomer.

Normally, I use the Boomer word to describe our generation, the 46 to 66 year olds that are the biggest cohort in history. In this case Boomer, I believe, resonates in both a population and a belief context.

Of course, there are people who see the Boomers, the cohort, as nothing like the boom time in our society. I just watched a Joni Mitchell interview (on you tube), where she really disparages us Boomers. As an icon of Woodstock and a poet, she lectured on the Boomer’s parents competitive nature and how that resulted in us getting everything we wanted. We got spoiled. Drugs, birth control, free love, and an absence of hearing the word “no” made us feel entitled. The ME generation became consumers. George Carlin, in one of his famous rants chronicled on you tube, belittled Boomers as selfish, “me first”, “give it to me cause I want it” people , basically stating that we are ungovernable.

Even Willie Nelson and Jesse Ventura, in their “Lost Interviews” ( you can look it up ), bemoaned the fact that Boomers have lost their way, and were, in many ways, asleep. We love drugs, but started the war on drugs. The rebels of the 60’s, the anti-establishment anti-war crowd just spent most of the last 15 years on a bloody Eastern crusade. Free love is now abstinence. Boomers seem to have gone back on every core principle of our generation. We live in our own little world, and if we are not personally effected, we just don’t care. Kinda sounds like the vaccine discussion of today, does it not ?

Wow, some pretty damning opinions. I have not included the younger cohort’s thoughts, as we tend to discount our children’s comments as uninformed or immature – they don’t know the real world. Sound familiar ? Hearing our icon’s comment negatively, however, should give one pause.

Ok, pause over. I get that the older generation can see life thru a certain lens, but the world has changed from their day, and their inability to change is damning. Good thing we love them ! Just keep giving them smartphones, and enjoy their utter bafflement …

Today, we are curing diseases, making inroads into cancer, increasing individual human rights, eliminating poverty, keeping conflicts regional, managing population growth, using technology to save the planet, melting all types of people together into one society, going to Mars, integrating all countries into a global frame of reference – all in all, with one exception, a noteworthy path of accomplishments that we Boomers can be proud of. A path, as our work has only started as we come of age, but progress to be proud of. When the richest person on the planet, Bill Gates, is using most of his fortune to transform people and societies, well, what other time in history did the wealthy do that ? Thanks Bill, and all the other billionaires who have taken the 50% challenge !

Yes, our television news can look bleak at times. Conflict, poverty, crime, and injustice can all seem prevalent. I would argue, however, that they are actually smaller than they used to be. Crime levels are dropping, injustices are now usually individual in nature, not group or regional. The fact that the news organizations have to search hard to find individual stories is telling. Also, every time I see a Kim Kardashian story, I know we are ok. If that’s the worst they can throw at us …

My only exception, my basic worry, concerns the debt we Boomers have rung up. Governmental debt, household debt, student loans, credit cards, unfunded pensions, all these things keep me worried that we could kill this golden age we have nurtured. On the one hand, I wonder where all the money went ? Trillions seem to be missing. I would love to have someone tell me where it is, cause it didn’t get spend on things I can see. Now that’s something I would like Paul Krugman, the economist and NY Times columnist, to write about !

On the other hand, we do seem to be slowly reacting to the situation, Not wanting to go into retirement owing money, and really not wanting to pass this liability onto our kids, we do seem to have cut back on consumption, the economic horse we rode to prosperity on. Slowly, we are realizing that our wants are different than our needs, and both are higher than our income, especially our retirement income.

Pick your poison, but I am a Boomer in both senses of the word. Or, as George Carlin ranted, Boomers, be strong, work hard and play harder, gimmie more, and just do it. The results so far look pretty good.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , is Greece more like a adult kid who just won’t leave, or an aging parent who needs our help ?

Can Boomers ever Retire ? Vol 65

If half of the stuff in your shopping cart says “for fast relief”, you must be a Boomer !

As a Boomer who contemplates retirement at some point, I am filled with many thoughts, most of the negative variety. Where to begin ?

You look around the world, and see that everyone has too much debt. Whether its countries like Greece, who wrote the book on freeloading for a generation, to Japan, who have an aging population consumed with eating their young economically, few of us have the formula on how to survive and retire in today’s world.

Where did the debt come from ?Where was the money spent ? I look at public debt, like governmental deficits and pension under funding, and probably blame healthcare or our generous income distribution programs for most of it. We sure are not spending it on roads or bridges. Personal debt, on the other hand, must be mostly housing related, like mortgages, cause otherwise the other place to look is our waistlines !

Looking at statistics from a few global studies, if you have a net worth of approximately $250,000 USD, you are in the top 5% of the world. If you have a net worth of $800,000 USD, you are in the top 1% globally. Wow ! Anyone with a big house probably has that amount in assets. which probably explains the CHIP mortgage popularity, where you sell part of your future housing profits ( and thr kids inheritance ) for cash today. Of course, we do not live in Africa, China, or India, so those numbers really mean nothing. Perhaps if you are contemplating a move to Ecuador and their cheap living conditions, but otherwise, our Western standards mean you need a lot of cash saved.

We must remember that our houses have gained soo much because the underlying interest rates are at historical low levels, inversely inflating the value of our real estate, and because of the Sellers market that has existed for 30 years. Yes Sellers, as we Boomers asked for big suburban homes with property, bidding up all types of homes. What happens when the next generation, having fewer kids and wanting more of a non-car no-lawn lifestyle, start a Buyer’s market ? How much is your house worth then ? Big ensuites, hot tubs, granite, so what ? Dime a dozen…

I remember buying my first house when interest rates were 21%. I assumes a mortgage at 15%, and thanked god I was not paying the full rate, as I could not have afforded it. That row house was 1,000 square feet, finished basement, 3 bedroom 2 bath, and I paid $42,000. in 1982. That house today is going for a lot more, depending on the market. The point is, if you are counting on your house funding 30 years of retirement, give your head a shake, because you are dreaming. First, where are you going to live ? Yes, you still need some space, maybe a rental with less room ?

Sounds too good to be true, so it probably is. If we Boomers all tried to cash out, sell our houses and downsize to say, a bungalow, it would trash the market, and minimize our cash dreams.

Its not all doom and gloom. I have more than a few friends who believe that the only way they will retire before 70 is with a lottery win. Yes, a few lucky folks will realize this windfall, but the chances of it being you, well, watch out for a lightning strike first. I have other friends who believe that their health and habits are so poor, they will not live past 65 anyway, so why bother to plan for the future. Uggg.

The point is that all the surveys still show household debt at all time highs, with the average Boomer holding less than $50K in their registered retirement accounts. Both vectors are going in the wrong direction. All the experts say you need to retire with no debt, and enough savings to top up the shrinking governments pensions, aid that will start to be clawed back to fund our health care system.

Still we Boomers, buying expensive toys, funding 20-something offspring, and perhaps an aging parent, still spend to the max. I know, maybe we will just keep working forever. Forget that. Technology is already making many jobs redundant. Hopefully you can get one of those part-time Walmart jobs, while you compete with thousands of other Boomers in the same predicament as you are. How are your seasonal skills ?

So, huge debts, no savings, a housing market about to collapse or at least shrink, few jobs, poor health, little hope of a government bailout, what are you thinking ? Maybe it was about that inheritance from your folks ? Not so fast, as governments are already eyeballing that.

Of course the 1% will not have to worry too much, but they will also be under political pressure to fund poorer people’s needs. The class wars will only get meaner, inequality only worse.

This should be a wake-up call for most of us, to spend less than you earn, pay off debts, and downsize your housing while you can still buy something smaller, and have some money left over to augment your savings.

The other way is to gamble your money in the stock market, hoping for a few quick kills. Maybe if you had foreseen the oil price drop, you could have made a killing. What, you did not see that coming ? What makes you think you’re going to see the next big opportunity ?

Its never too late to wake up to reality, and start on a path to financial stability. Otherwise, perhaps investing in Purina Pet Food stock is a good bet, since you will be buying lots of it.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , boom or gloom, which way do you lean ?

Can Muslims actually Assimilate ? Vol 64

If you remember when Bill Cosby was funny, you must be a Boomer !

When you look at the news today, one has to wonder if Muslims can assimilate out of their conservative religion, and into a liberal society. Killings in Canada, the Paris Charlie Hebdo massacre, lone wolf attacks in the US, and the full EU on terrorist alert could give one the impression that the answer has to be a resounding no.

Any analysis of the Quran would confirm that it would be improbable, if not impossible, for a good Muslim to assimilate in the West. For example, socially, his allegiance to Allah forbids him from making friends outside of his religion. We are infidels, unbelievers. While we all know that many religions, including Christians, live throughout the Middle East, I am sure that some type of friendship must occur. Otherwise, neighbour would be killing neighbour every day. Bigots can point to the “no go” zones in many EU countries, and the concentration of Muslims in certain neighbourhoods in our cities, but is this really different than what happened to the Irish many years ago, or other waves of immigrants. I think not. I hope not.

Politically, Muslims are supposed to submit to the mullahs, who can speak of the destruction of Israel and the United States, the Great Satan. Thankfully, most of the Muslim leaders in the West seen to understand that, since their religion is not under attack, is even greatly respected, their message has to be one of personal belief, of understanding the Quran does not preach violence. Yes, radicalization of their young is occurring, but I choose to believe that this type of acting out happens in all cultures, and that we are all guilty of producing malcontents.

It is instructive to note that a few lone wolves, using radical slogans from ISIL or other groups, have our whole society questioning our freedoms. Unbelievable. In the USA alone, we kill each other with guns thousands of time a year, yes hundreds of times more than the lone wolves have killed. Yet we get in a sweat about a few maladjusted nutbar fanatics. We can’t control the gang events in Chicago, so why try to control a few hundred kids in the whole country ? Let it go …

Remember, ISIL, among other groups, needs to recruit to stay alive and grow. If they were that popular in the region, they would have no problem filling their quote of future body bags, but they can’t, so they need to recruit from afar. Imagine if we just ignored them, treated their situations like we treat a drunk driver incident ? A quick news flash, a shaming ritual perhaps, then nothing. But I digress.

Religiously, scripturally, and intellectually, my fictional Muslim must follow the teachings of the Quran. So, he can not accept any system based on the bible, like our laws and legal process, and our various constitutions. He must follow the five Pillars of Islam, as no other religion is accepted by his Prophet except Islam. This sounds pretty ironclad.

Philosophically, Islam and the Quran seem to disallow any freedom of religion or expression. Democracy then can not co-exist with Islamic faith. I guess allowing everyone a vote would be outlawed, and might explain why most of the Muslim countries in the Middle East are governed by dictators or autocratic families. It make you wonder how Indonesia escaped the fate of their Muslim brother and sisters.

The point is that many Muslims are assimilating to the West. It takes some time to adjust to a life of freedom, usually a generation or two, the same as the other immigrants took, whether they were Polish, Irish, or Chinese, just to name a few. They start out in tribal neighbourhoods which have their houses of worship, social areas where their language is accepted, where they can get the food of their homeland, and where they can get jobs, a start in a new life. Sound familiar ?

Its not a surprise that a few of their young have trouble fitting in. Their Boomer parents fled a bad place, and it must be terrible to see one of their main reasons for going through the risks and expense of emigrating, a better life for their kids, wasted when they become radicalized.

So, why leave all you know ? Because of the trump card that beats all the theoretical reasons mentioned above, economics. Yes, money, that great magnet. Its as old as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The Muslim world is an ecological disaster, with no water, no more cultivatable land, and no hope. Pray all you want, but any wealth is owned by a few families, and they are not about to give it up. The result is no common good, even if the Quran calls for it. No ownership of problems, no ruling class doing the right stuff for their citizens. Just the daily hammering home of religion, used to keep society in their place. Just look at Iraq, Syria, or Gaza ! Why would you stay if you had any chance to leave ?

So, I believe that Muslims can assimilate, just like my Irish grandfather did. Yes, we can try to make it easier on them and any future immigrants, by incorporating the lessons our forefathers learned, and in most cases I believe we are. I also strongly believe that people who leave a negative place seeking a positive, better life for themselves and their families are just the right kind of people we should welcome with open arms. While perfection is something to always be striving for, lets not let a few bad apples tar the whole barrel ! After all, its not where you came from, its who you become that counts on this moral and mortal coil.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , investing lessons for Boomers, cause we need them ?

Is Religion the Missing Answer to Everything ? Vol 63

If your wife has ever given you a round tuit, you must be a Boomer !

Today, religion is a dying motivation. The Pope, Muslim clerics, and all the other modern day moral communicators lament the loss of religious thinking in our growing secular world. Are they right ?

Being a Boomer, I have been exposed to religion, in all its forms and evolutions, for a lifetime. I have seen older people grapple with the meaning of life, and lean on religion as an answer, even when they do not know the questions. I have seen the church as a money making machine, an organization with bad marketing trying to keep their real estate holdings intact with dwindling parishioners to fund their expenses. I have seen the church accused of wide spread sexual molestation, doing their best to hide the facts and downplay the human damage. I have read about the way the Church dealt with various native communities, using residential schools to destroy the native way of life. Canada just had a Reconciliation committee that tried to heal the past injustices, and the stories of the Father’s brutality brings one to tears. We have all seen genocide in the name of religion, a blasphemy we are all guilty of.

All in all, I have spurned religion, thinking of it as a failed business shamefully using morality as the drawing card, a path to salvation story reminiscent of the man behind the curtain that Dorothy unveiled. Fine, screw the organization, I can still be a moral person, right ?

Morality however, is hard to define. Do I believe in a higher power, an intelligent designer, or rely on science to explain things that seem impossible, like eyesight ? How do I treat my fellow man, and to what standard ? Turning the other cheek, what are the rules for this, and are they universal ? Do I believe in reincarnation as somehow giving me a reason to help the next generation, to be good for goodness sake ?

These questions can get complicated, but they are the right questions to be asking. Personally, how you answer them is an individual story, and if I base some of my answers on faith and you get yours out of an old book, then fine. As long as we arrive at close to the right answer, how you got there should be irrelevant to me.

I look at Muslims fighting each other, and realize that most religions have gone through the same reconciliation struggle – remember the Orange and the Greens ?. We can not help their process, although we would like to find a way to stop or limit the conflict. By the way, I do not include ISIL in this category. Their leadership are gangsters, killing and kidnapping everyone, irregardless of religious affiliation. Seeing Sunni and Shi’ite alike gang up on them is actually one of the few positive signs now coming out of that part of the world today.

So, I spurn religion for morality. I am proud to say that I am a moral person, and I raised my kids with these morals, while allowing them some leeway to question my beliefs. For example, I am for capital punishment in some cases, and against gay marriage, while my kids believe in the opposite positions. Ok, maybe I am a social dinosaur, but I am comfortable with my beliefs.

Along then comes an article by Yuval Levin, called Taking the Long Way ( Disciplines of the soul are the basis of a Liberal society ). His argument, and I probably will not do it justice, is that our society today takes the short view of what is needed to improve itself. We get caught up in short term thinking, which usually gets translated into discussions about liberal versus conservative dogma, fighting over the use of government as the basic tool to improve our ourselves. For example, Liberals want more government so we can be free of restrictions, and thus they use regulations to restrict individual choice for the betterment of society as a whole. Environmental laws are a great example of this. Conservatives want freedom as well, but believe that less regulation un-encumbers individuals. Thus we have the short term political ebb and flow we are all used to today.

Levin’s point is that we are missing the point. Society should be looking at the soul, and how we love and feed our wellbeing in the long term. Sure, we need some government, but we seem focused on short-term issues, like helping unwed mothers, rather than the long view of why they would up in that position ( my example, not Levin’s ). His point is that it is the lack of religion, specifically the lack of a soul-forming institution, that is really missing today. This soul forming has always occurred in the best institution for its emancipation, that being religious institutions.

Yes, we can agree that religion had its uses down through the ages, and I can believe that Levin only has the best aspects of religion at heart when he makes this argument. So, to compromise, lets agree that we both want our morality, our soul, to be a work in progress. To quote him, ” this is no easy task, as not everyone has the good fortune to of a flourishing family, or the opportunity of rewarding work, or a liberal education, or a humbling faith, let along all of these at once”. To put most of these within reach of the people should be the reason for government.

An interesting argument, clouded with religious overtones I am very uncomfortable with. Perhaps other religions see life this way, and consider our short term capitalistic society as lost, or misguided. A good subject for another time.

For now, I think Levin would agree that we need less partisanship, we need to be more civil with each other, holding our leaders to account when they try to demonize people. Lets build a society where everyone, rich or poor, immigrant or native, black or white, all have equal opportunity to the things that are soul enriching.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , how to invest in this day and age ?

Is Charlie Hebdo a Boomer ? Vol 62

If Beyonce is still 2nd to Whitney Houston, you must be a Boomer !

Writing a Blog on Boomers, I do try to deal with some of the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day. Its the context of today, the world view that we Boomers use as a frame to lead our lives, to guide us in making decisions, in deciding what to do next. Medical advances point to a long healthy life, while pension worries inject financial realism that we will outlive our wealth. In between these signposts, the great question is do we watch, or get involved ? A continuum for sure, bouncing us from side to side like a clock pendulum, sometimes daily.

The Paris attack on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo is a perfect example of this pendulum swinging between our urge to passively cocoon on one hand, and our angry reaction to nuke the bastards.

Over the holidays, like many Boomers, we enjoyed many celebration’s. Before Christmas, my whole family got together and did a pot luck, somehow sitting 25 diverse people around the table. The ages ranged from 19 to 59, meat eaters to vegans, boyfriends and girlfriends, brothers and wives, all enjoying themselves. At one point, I looked around the table and noticed that only one person was not white. An amazing view when you consider that we live in a community of many clans and faiths. My reaction was to notice that my family has a long way to go to be Charlie Hebdo.

The next morning, my immediate family had our own celebration at home, between hangovers and omelettes . A nice simple gathering, before we all left to see other family in other cities.

At my in-laws later that week, we had 2 large dinners with shifting invitees, culminating in an off-site gathering that my father-in-law pays for, numbering 30 people. All in all, it was a great time, with little bad news to muddle the story lines. Boring, but with the snow and cold, a cocooning filled with jokes and calories. We also saw old friends, staying in touch with all the old stories.

Idealistic, a perfect time to enjoy family, get caught up on events, and re-connect, a rare event in our otherwise scattered and on-line world.

Of course, the pendulum swung back, and gunmen broke our calm with the killings in Paris, and the continued police actions today in Belgium. The speed by which our world can go from peaceful to chaotic continues to amaze me. In our 7/24 connected world, I suppose this argues for the Boomer cocoon, saving ourselves from events we can not control, so why view them ? A powerful argument, that lets us tune out, lowers the powerlessness feeling, and lets us watch Netflix all day. After all, the chances of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time is lower than the chances of a traffic accident, so relax !

After all, isn’t this the message the Charlie Hebdo survivors are telling us ? We are bigger than a few misguided Muslims, they can not dictate policy or censor free speech, don’t let them win ! True enough. But then why do I feel the need to bomb ISIL back to the stone age ?

I am a long term optimist for our species. We will eventually intermingle socially and economically, allowing religion as a sidebar to our organizational hierarchy, a moral bridge we all need to assist in judging our journey in becoming a better race. ISIL is a stone on the road of progress, and we tried to kick it off the path, only to stub our toe on a rock that, like a glacier, was mostly buried. Do we spend the resources to stop, dug out the rock, fill in the whole, and move on, or do we just accept the fact that some stones will impede our path forward, and like a rock that become sand under the never ending movement of water, ISIL will soon become irrelevant to our journey.

If ISIL’s plan was to seek redemption, they will soon fade from out TV screens, as other items race for our attention. I am sure that they did not believe that attacking a second rate cartoon magazine that most of the world had never heard of, let alone most French even read, now sells millions of copies worldwide. Is this what they really wanted ? Whether you believe that seeing Mohammad portrayed satirically is proper or not, and I personally do not, all ISIL has done is shown that the cartoon to greater than the gun ! This has always been so, but ISIL did not get the rallying cry they wanted.

So, we do need to stay involved, not allowing a small radical group to cower our positive direction. When even Hassan Nasrallah, the Shi’ite Hezbollah leader speaks out on the issue and condemns ISIL, well, isn’t that a true sign that ISIL messed up !

All in all, the point is that Charlie Hebdo, a group of unknown second rate cartoonists are fighting the good fight, and they died trying to keep us from the cocoon. They have earned our respect as they continue to try to keep us engaged in denouncing the things that inhibit our progress. Hopefully next Christmas, I will see more diversity around my dinner table, and they will be part of the reason.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , whither the liberal or conservative soul ?

Thank God for the CIA Vol 61

If you remember who Deep Throat was, you must be a Boomer !

Torture vexes me, for a lot of reasons. Moral, legal, fundamental, caloric, political, on almost all fronts I could use to talk about torture, it vexes me. Context. Its a grown-up word. Its a Boomer word. Its a dangerous word, used to explain or justify almost anything. As a Boomer, I have used context many time with my children, and friends, especially to extricate myself from a moral argument. After all you can’t call your kids stupid !

So, with the latest Democratically controlled US Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use and results of the CIA’s torture’s techniques and “actionable intelligence”, we are faced with the context of dealing with the ugly side of war. Yes, it is a great thing that a democracy can deal with its ugly side in public. I love that our allies hide behind our unburdening of our quilt, like a confessional, like it frees us from the consequences, like the Hague will never come calling, because look, we admit our guilt, but after all, we are better that the bad guys !

Politically, when did we lose our balls ? Did I miss the great sucking sound of our testicles being sucked back into our body politic. Torture is what we do to our intractable enemies, those fucks who don’t get it, who hide behind their mommies skirts, who feign ignorance then pull an AK47 or plant IED’s, who kill friendlies. Those guys, who use social media to sell their message with beheadings. They should consider themselves lucky. Personally, I would just send them to a super max prison, and promise a pardon to whomever got us “actionable intelligence” first. Lets use real experts to extract information, if you ask me !

Yes, does torture work is a whole question in itself. As Boomers who have seen every cop show ever made, we know torture works, otherwise, there is no way they could fit a crime investigation into an hour, allowing for commercials. Seriously, we believe in people wanting to preserve their life. Nothing is worth giving up a lifetime of prison for a crime. Its a fabric of our socialization that love of life trumpets all. Its why the current discussion on euthanasia is so unsettling. How can they not understand the value of life ? Waterboarding, rectal replenishment, testicular shock, or god knows whatever else Dick Cheney was good at, it would easily convince me to give up whatever ! Perhaps we should take into consideration that the types of people who would know the operational details for the 911 bombings, zealots all, would be willing to give their lives for the cause. Unlike you or me. Torture is a known, a willing end if captured. Legally, is this the reason we never saw them, the Guantanamo detainees, in court ? Someone who agrees they are guilty, who would love the media storm their testimony would produce, sacrificing everything for a chance to sell their cause globally ?

Calorically, we must acknowledge that we treat our food better than we treat our political adversaries. Would you rather be an ISIL fighter in Iraq, or a chicken in America ? Both have a short life expectancy. Both are used for a purpose outside their control. Both live in a war zone, and both expect a short life expectancy. I wonder if a chicken is reminded of the virgins he will get upon death ? My vegan daughter, when informed that the upcoming family Christmas dinner menu included chicken, salmon, and beef, wondered how we could have possibly missed pork, was reminded that the beans dish had bacon. Her disgust was apparent when she asked me if we could kill any other animals in the name of Jesus ? Context again. So, this Christmas season, lets remember how we raise our food, in cages, with needles, force feedings, genetically modified.
To eat is to fundamentally understand the hell we put our food thru.

Religiously, we homo sapiens have always tortured. Religious convocations, the Spanish Inquisitions, the Crusades, lets agree on the past, and work to narrow its future use.

Morally, we want our society to progress, to improve, to treat our citizens better, to strive for a world in which we all reach our potential, whether you are a rich world male, or a poor girl from Africa. How we do this is the presumptive struggle of today. The outliers who want us to take a backward step, to delay our overall progress, to wallow in the mire, they need re-education. Yes, this path is a dream, but those wanting to change the path need to be talked to, to have their vision changed. Violence is always going to be a form of negotiation, but it should only be allowed of the aims are relevant. Destroying things just because, well, like a serial killer, sometimes we need to use the same techniques we use with our food stock, and eliminate the sick, for the betterment of the overall herd. Society speaks, and as long as you had a hearing, you must live with the consequences.

To some, I must sound like a death penalty apologist. Not completely true. While I agree with using the death penalty in certain circumstances, lets agree that sometimes citizens prove their unworthiness of life. Better for those souls to start over than endure a life of hell on earth. Who is being more moral, I ask you ?

In the end, what must not forgotten is that the CIA has one major goal – to keep regional wars, which they can try to stop, from becoming world wars. To this end, we can argue with their methods, but in any context, the result has been perfect, so far.

Next on Boomers – WTF ! , nudging, part 2 ?