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The Purple Muse

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Welcome to the web site of The Purple Muse.  We offer commentary and opinion on the major issues being debated in our world today.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's the Viking way!

You may have noticed a section of this website titled, Cruising Around the World - One Culture at a Time, http://thepurplemuse.com/id35.html.  My wife and I have taken a number of cruises on four different cruise lines and literally cruised completely around the world.  We are currently scheduled to spend three weeks cruising in the North and Baltic Seas this summer.  My wife follows the happenings in the cruise industry via http://www.cruisecritic.com/community/?src=nav.  The Forums provide great information from fellow cruisers on future, current and past cruises on a wide range of subject matter. 

Currently, we have friends sailing on the Viking Star, http://www.vikingcruises.com/oceans/ships/viking-star/index.html.  The Viking Star is the lead ship of the Viking Star class of cruise ships, and the first ocean going ship operated by Viking Ocean Cruises, a division of Viking Cruises.  Our friends boarded the ship in Istanbul about five weeks ago for a 50 day European cruise.  They knew they would be on the inaugural cruise of a brand new ocean going ship owned by a company that previously operated river cruises in in Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt.  They expected to encounter some issues in the early days of the cruise that would be quickly resolved.  They expected an experienced cruise company that prides itself on its reputation for good service to meet their expectations over the 50 days of the cruise.  Unfortunately, they expected wrong! 

My wife has been following the commentary from our friends and other cruisers that signed up for the first 50 days on www.cruisecritic.com.  We have also received emails from our friends with more details on the issues and problems they have encountered.  Viking Ocean Cruises was not prepared to operate the Viking Star on the day the ship left Istanbul at a level of service that meets the most basic expectations of very experienced cruisers like our friends and many of the others that signed up for the first 50 days.  The management response to many of the issues that have been identified has been laughable.  To be fair the reports we are getting advise us that the overall level of service is improving but there continue to be problems that shouldn't occur.  Viking launched this service when they weren't ready for it.  They didn't go through the normal shake-down process that major cruise lines use for new ships.  It is also clear that many of the crew were inexperienced in ocean cruising and/or received poor management direction.  The level of dissatisfaction among the 50 day cruisers continues to build since the company is unable or unwilling to fix all of its problems.  The cruisers have even developed a slogan for describing the company response, or lack thereof, to its issues - It's the Viking way! 

How would you feel if you received a written invitation from the cruise line to a special dinner celebrating the christening of the Viking Star in Bergen, Norway on May 17?  You would probably be very happy to accept, get dressed up for a formal dinner and show up on time at the meeting location on the ship and be ready to board a bus to the dinner location.  How would you feel, after waiting an hour or so at the meeting location, to listen to the cruise director make an announcement to all of the 50 day cruisers that they are no longer invited to dinner!  The dinner invitation was rescinded!  And no explanation was provided as to what happened!  This happened to our friends and the other 50 day cruisers yesterday!  Unbelievable, but unfortunately very true.  How could any company screw up this badly?  Is Viking trying to set a record for angriest cruise customers based purely on service failures and inept management?  This story is absolutely true.

It is very clear that Viking's senior management is not a customer friendly group.  They have been working hard to market the Viking Star and sister ships to follow.  However, as word of their service failures becomes known through the cruise community I believe they will have a tough time achieving their business plan objectives.  People willing to pay a premium for a great cruise experience will not put up with continuing service problems.  Viking needs to get its act together quickly.  Otherwise, "its the Viking way" will be come the global standard in the ocean cruise industry for low quality premium service. 

TPM

8:50 pm          Comments

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Is Mythology History?

A few months ago I was ordering some books from Amazon when I noticed a relatively new (published in 2012)  book by legendary author Erich von Daniken.  It has been many years since I had read one of von Daniken's books so I decided to add Odyssey of the Gods - The History of Extraterrestrial Contact in Ancient Greece to my cart.  Von Daniken states in the  final chapter that he wrote Odyssey of the Gods several years before it was published.

After a slow start the book became extremely interesting.  Von Daniken begins with a discussion and analysis of the ancient Greek story Argonautica, Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece.  Is this story mythology or does it contain some elements of history?  Since there is no absolute certainty of the route Jason and the Argonauts took on their quest, there is no way to determine how much of the story may be true.  Von Daniken makes the case that this very ancient story and other ancient Greek stories have elements of truth and that the Gods of mythology were extraterrestrials.  Von Daniken is well known for his views on this subject and he makes a reasonable but unproven case to support his views. 

The highlight of the book is Von Daniken's analysis of Plato's story of Atlantis.  I didn't remember, or maybe I never knew, that the Greek story of Atlantis actually originated from Egypt.  Von Daniken explains how the story of Atlantis became learned ancient history by the Greeks.  Von Daniken's makes an extensive effort to demonstrate that the legendary Troy is not the same site as Atlantis, a position advocated by Eberhard Zangger.  Von Daniken lists many of sites that other researchers have postulated as being the site of the legendary Atlantis.  Von Daniken doesn't advocate for any particular site as being Atlantis other than making the case that Atlantis was west of the Strait of Gibraltar (Pillars of Hercules), the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean, as stated by Plato.  Von Danikien believes that Atlantis existed around 9,000 BC, as stated by Plato, as learned by the Greeks from the Egyptians. 

One of the most interesting parts of the entire book is von Daniken's discussion of a special metal used in Atlantis called orichalcum.  Orichalcum is discussed in Plato's writings.  Von Daniken compares orichalcum to a copper/gold/silver alloy found in artifacts of pre-Inca, pre-Columbian South America culture.  Subject matter experts have determined that the smelting and metals mixing process needed to produce these artifacts has never been surpassed to this day.  Are the South American alloys and orichalcum the same metal?  Did pre-Inca cultures interact with Atlantis?  Is it the same culture? 

History provides us tantalizing clues about our past.  But the evidence trail is incomplete.  Is mythology history?  What were the Gods?  Maybe, we will be able to answer these questions sometime in the future after obtaining a better understanding of our past. 

TPM

11:23 am          Comments

Friday, May 8, 2015

Making the American Dream Come True?

Yesterday's (March 7) Washington Post includes an opinion article on the Op-Ed page authored by Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, US Senator from Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, Mayor of New York City.  The title of the article in the newspaper is "A new agenda from prosperity".  The title of the same article on-line is "How to revive the American Dream."  You can read the article on the Washington Post web site, http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-to-revive-the-american-dream/2015/05/06/a583c94c-f323-11e4-b2f3-af5479e6bbdd_story.html.  Most political analysts consider Warren and de Blasio to be on the far left of the political spectrum.  They are true liberal progressives. 

Warren and de Blasio state that everything was going fine with the US economy and the middle class until the early 1980s when the US implemented trickle-down economics, which included tax cuts for those at the top, and deregulated Wall Street.  They state that the rich have gotten richer and "the rest of America - 90 percent of Americans - got nothing."  It should be noted that they don't attack President Reagan or even mention his name in the article, but the period they are discussing was when Reagan was in office.  The authors state "Government policies matter and can make a difference", which is true.  The authors list nine fundamental policy changes they would make to rebuild the US middle class.  They finish their piece stating "It is time to be bold.  The American Dream depends on it." 

The Warren, de Blasio piece is an article, not a book, or a long form presentation.  There is no way to review the entire history of post World War II US and global economics in a article.  But the authors leave out some fairly big issues like the stagflation that was dominating the US economy in the late 1970s that called for new approaches to economic policy and the massive US federal debt and projected long term liabilities and how globalization of the world economy developed and accelerated under President Clinton.  Their leader, President Obama, is championing a new trade deal with Asia which could advance globalization even further. 

The authors make a couple of points that are correct.  The financial industry deregulation of the early 1980s has proven to be a mistake.  There is far too much concentration in the industry and our nation would be better off if we broke up the biggest of the big banks.  They also make the point that "Education is still the best ticket to the middle class", which is absolutely true. 

Many of the policy changes they recommend require the US government to spend more money.  Millionaires and billionaires are designated by the authors to "pay their fair share" despite the fact that they already pay the vast majority of income taxes collected by the government today.  They also want to punish business bad guys like multinational corporations and oil companies.  There is no indication from the authors that they advocate any kind of balanced approach to revenue and spending or willingness to make fundamental changes in entitlements to eliminate much of our nations unfunded liabilities.  They just want to wave a magic government wand to make the American Dream come true for everyone by spending taxpayer funds. 

Warren and de Blasio did a good job of presenting a summary of the liberal progressive view of US economic policy.  It is very simplistic and ignores a lot of critical history and our current circumstances, the reality of globalization and our national debt as two examples.  If they want to bring independent thinkers into their camp they need to deal with fundamentals first and then discuss "real change."  They will never make the American Dream come true for anyone by simply restating their talking points. 

TPM

12:01 am          Comments

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Thoughts About UFOs

I just finished reading Richard M. Dolan's 2014 book, UFOs for the 21st Century Mind - A Fresh Guide to an Ancient Mystery.  Without a doubt this is the best book I have ever read on the subject of UFOs.  I have not read a lot of books on this extremely interesting topic but this one is head and shoulders above all the others in my library.  I highly recommend this book to anyone that has any interest in this topic. 

You may be thinking "Why does he like this book so much?" or "I don't believe in UFOs because they don't exist and therefore reading a book about UFOs is a waste of my time!"  The reason I like this book so much is that Mr. Dolan discusses all the issues concerning UFOs in a very analytical, questioning manner.  He addresses the complete situation in sufficient depth to be meaningful without overdoing any particular topic.  He addresses all the different aspects of the UFO debate including the possibility of ancient visitations, modern era events, government secrecy, contact and abduction, and related topics such as multidimensional space and exploring consciousness.  There are many examples provided for each topic he addresses and he provides references to other researchers work for more depth on each topic.  For those that are believers or just interested in the topic this is an excellent overview of the topic with meaningful depth.  However, if you believe this topic is complete nonsense I suggest you attempt to keep an open mind and read Mr. Dolan's book.  

You may be asking what do I believe since I am advocating that people read this book.  I believe there are simply too many legitimate reports from highly qualified people over a long period of time to ignore.  If only one of the reports is fact than some form of alien spacecraft or being has visited our planet and the reported history of the world is fundamentally changed.  I believe that the odds of at least one of the reports being legitimate is extremely high.  There some reports that are discussed in this book and other books that have an extremely high probability of being legitimate because of the people involved. 

However, Mr. Dolan, and other investigators, make the case that the US government has hidden its knowledge and involvement with aliens and UFOs for over 60 years behind a national security firewall while funding a huge black program dedicated to this subject.  It is extremely hard to believe that the US government can keep its involvement with aliens and UFOs a secret since thousands of individuals would have been involved in the program for over six decades.  Not one person with definitive knowledge and applicable documents has provided solid documentation to a researcher after all of this time?  How can that be?  This is my quandary. 

Mr. Dolan, despite writing an excellent book, and the many other researchers in the field have failed to provide indisputable evidence despite the thousands of events that have occurred.  Where is the indisputable evidence?  The other possibility, regarding reports of alien spacecraft, is that people are seeing advanced US aircraft that use propulsion technology that has been developed under black programs and is far more advanced than anything being used by conventional military forces.  One has to admit that this is a possibility and that some of the technology may have its origins in Nazi Germany during World War II.  One can make guesses or develop theories all night long about this topic. 

The people that provided legitimate reports saw or experienced something real.  Not all reports are legitimate.  What did the people see?  What did they experience?  I wish I knew for sure, but I don't.  Read Mr. Dolan's book if you want to learn more. 

TPM

10:00 pm          Comments

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Great Economic Divide

It seems as if there is a new theory every day about what has caused the great economic divide between the US middle class and the one percent.  Many people want to blame a specific group of people for the long term decline in relative living standards and the income disparity between the middle class and the one percent, which includes many senior corporate executives, many senior people in the financial industry and those fortunate individuals that are winning the game of life through their unique skills or ideas.  All of the random thoughts on this issue have obscured the fundamental reasons why this development has occurred and why it will continue indefinitely into future without some fundamental changes in economic and political philosophy in the US.  There are three critical factors that are driving this trend: globalization, technology and the actions of the Federal Government and Federal Reserve. 

After World War II the US was the only industrial country left intact.  The US was in a position of maximum economic power.  For 50 years (1945 to about 1995) the rest of the world slowly began to erode US economic power.  The US dissipated significant economic power through its large defense expenditures over this period while other nations invested in their economies.  In the mid 1990s the US agreed to two major international trade agreements, NAFTA (North America) and the WTO ( the world).  These agreements gave US market access to hundreds of millions of unskilled and semiskilled low wage workers located around the world.  The US government willingly agreed to transfer some of our nations wealth to the rest of the world over time through free trade agreements.  Opponents of these agreements, advocated by President Clinton's administration, warned of the long term impact of fully opening US markets to very low wage workers.  US companies grew larger and larger in order to compete was widely as possible.  Bigger companies measn higher executive pay.  US companies implemented global supply chain management systems in-order to compete with new market entrants from around the world.  One of the direct results of these trade agreements was that unskilled and semiskilled Americans were forced to compete directly or indirectly against their foreign peers who were willing to work for a fraction of their wages.  This process continues today.  Between illegal immigrants and foreign sourcing of all kinds of products and services there is continual wage pressure on all persons at this skill level in the United States. 

The second element of the income disparity trend has been caused by technology.  One must consider all aspects of technology including communications, transport, and information technology.  The communications infrastructure of the world has vastly changed in recent decades.  A person can send information of any type in real time to any location in the world at any time of day using a combination of fiber optics (wire-line), terrestrial wireless and satellite communication.  No person or company is off the grid unless they want to be.  This includes ships at sea.  A supplier on the other side of the planet is as easy to contact as a business down the street from a communications infrastructure perspective.  The massive investment in communications infrastructure throughout the world has eliminated communications as a barrier to trade. 

We must also consider the advancements of the transport industry in recent decades.  Massive new ships for transporting all kinds of materials and finished goods have been constructed.  New or expanded ports with high tech freight handling equipment have been constructed.  Inter-modal containers that allow ships, trains and trucks to seamlessly haul goods from factory to final distribution center have been developed.  Railroads have been expanded and made more efficient through investments in technology.  Every truck on the road and its cargo can be easily tracked at all times using wireless and satellite technology.  Freighter aircraft are used to transport high value goods anywhere on the planet.  The global transportation system is far more productive and lower cost (per unit being transported relative to its production cost) than ever before.  Distance from producer to consumer is no longer a major barrier to entry for a competitor. 

Information technology includes the Internet, PCs, servers, applications software, smart phones and all the other hardware and software that makes up today's business support infrastructure.  This equipment and software is relatively inexpensive and can be located anywhere on earth.  All suppliers of goods and services have access to the most advanced business information technology and can use it to make their business more productive from anywhere on the planet.  Information technology is not a barrier to entry for many types of businesses.  If one is building a business from scratch using the latest technology sometimes the new entrant can obtain competitive advantage over an established business that is using technology that is a generation or two older.

I am sure most people have heard the term "productivity".  It is a measure of efficiency in delivering goods and services.  One of the goals of businesses is to be more productive every year.  A simple way of looking at this objective is to use less labor or labor expense per unit of production.  In other words - use technology or lower cost labor to get the task done.  This is what all of the areas of technology are attempting to accomplish.  This is not helpful to the middle class from an income perspective.  If executives are successful in making their businesses more productive, and profitable, they are financially rewarded.

The actions of the US Government and the Federal Reserve have made significant contributions to the escalating divide between the middle class and the one percent.  I could spend days writing about their role but I want to keep this blog succinct.  Every time the US government borrows a dollar of new debt or rolls over existing debt somebody in the financial industry makes a profit.  Every time a government agency issues more debt, somebody in the financial industry makes a profit.  The more debt the government issues or guarantees, the more profit the financial industry makes.  This has a compounding impact when you include trading of debt and derivatives created around the debt.  The Federal Reserve is in business to make sure that the financial industry makes a profit.  The Federal Reserve creates interest rate policies that result in the transfer of wealth from individuals to the financial industry.  The actions of the Federal Reserve and the government during the time of the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis demonstrated to everyone that their first priority was to save the financial industry at the expense of the taxpayers.  Why does a taxpayer get virtually no interest on a savings account when the Federal Reserve pays interest to banks for their reserves deposited with them?  The interactions between the financial industry, the Federal Reserve and the US government is designed to protect and grow the profit making capability of the financial industry as the first priority.  Many events have occurred in recent years that I could write about on this point.  The bottom line is that the average person in the US has no idea how the government, the Federal Reserve and the financial industry work together to manage the financial system.  There was a reason our founding fathers didn't establish a central bank in the constitution.  It was not in the best interest of the citizens.  Have we learned our lesson yet? 

It is my belief that these three areas, globalization, the many facets of technology and the actions of the US Government and Federal Reserve are the primary drivers of the great economic divide between the one percent and the middle class.  The divide has grown over decades and is embedded in the global economic system and US financial system.  If an individual can't or is unable or unwilling to compete in the global labor marketplace, that individual will be left behind.  Skills and knowledge are everything in the world today.  Unskilled and semiskilled labor are procured at the lowest available cost and can be replaced quickly if needed.  Our political leaders created this system.  The pressure to create globalization was a natural outcome of the recovery of the world economy after the destruction caused by World War II, global population growth and changes in political and economic policies in many countries.  It will take a massive change in the economic policies of our political leaders to result in any actions that will fundamentally impact the great economic divide. 

TPM 

 

7:32 pm          Comments

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