Tuesday, April 4, 2017
We The Living - Ayn Rand
After reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead I decided to read her first
two novels. Her first novel is We The Living. Rand was 31 years old when We The Living was
first published in 1936. She emigrated to the US in 1926 at the age of 21. I read the version of the book that
was published in 1959 which includes a Forward that Rand wrote in October 1958.
We The Living is set in St. Petersburg (Petrograd, Leningrad), USSR over
several years in the early 1920s, just a few years after the Russian Revolution in 1917. Ayn Rand was born and lived
most of her early life in St. Petersburg and personally experienced the revolution and its aftermath with
her family. In the Forward of the book Rand states "We the Living is a near to an autobiography as
I will ever write. It is not an autobiography in the literal, but only in the intellectual, sense. The plot is invented;
the background is not."
was tough to read because the living and political conditions in St. Petersburg in the early Soviet era were
almost impossible to endure. Kira, the remarkable young woman that is the primary focus of the book, is put
in incredibly challenging situations created by the environment in which she is forced to live. In the Forward Rand
states "We the Living is not a story about Soviet Russia in 1925. It is a story about Dictatorship, any
dictatorship, anywhere, at any time, whether it be Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or - which this novel might do its share in
helping to prevent - a socialist America."
Today the USA is a political battleground for the hearts and minds of its citizens. A self described Socialist,
Bernie Sanders, was a major candidate in the 2016 Presidential election. The world is watching the country of Venezuela
disintegrate economically as its Socialist leaders wreck what was once a reasonably prosperous nation. Many may
see it as a stretch to call We The Living a warning to all free people. I feel it was timely for me to read
it now. My wife and I spent two days in St. Petersburg in the late summer of 2015 and we were physically
in several places described by Rand, making the story more meaningful to me. Earlier today I finished the
book and reread the Forward. It was very difficult reading about what it was like to survive in the wrecked
economy of St. Petersburg and the USSR in the 1920s. it was very difficult to continue reading
the book as the major characters suffered under the boot of the Soviet system and had to make extremely difficult life
choices. Rand clearly explains how impossible it is to truly 'live" in a socialist dictatorship.
She knew first hand and she made her own personal choice, she emigrated to the United States and became
a famous author continuing to impact the world decades after her death.
This book doesn't deal very much with the fundamental causes of the Russian
Revolution. Rand was born into the upper class so her view would be very different from those people that were
at the other end of the economic and political spectrum. But she intimates that the fundamental principles of the revolution
got hijacked along the way. It wasn't supposed to end up the way it did. But it did end up that way and continued
on for decades until it collapsed on Christmas Day in 1991 when the Soviet flag was taken down from the Kremlin for the last
time. Now Russia operates under a different economic and political system - who knows how to describe it accurately.
I hope we have all learned the lessons from the USSR period in world
history. Unfortunately, it appears that not everyone has learned those lessons.
Sunday, March 26, 2017
The Debt Box
Now that the "repeal and replace of Obamacare" has failed,
President Trump and the GOP are turning their attention to tax reform. They are about to enter "The Debt Box",
which has no exit once you are inside. This could be a very long blog but I am going to simplify this discussion to
make it easier to read.
Trump and his
team want to accomplish a number of objectives including: create more, better paying US jobs so that more people enjoy increases
in real income and work force participation increases significantly; accelerate annual GDP growth from the 2 percent
range to 3 to 4 percent; improve our national infrastructure, much of it is currently in disrepair; and improve our national
defense and homeland security capabilities. They also want to contain the rise of Federal government debt
since our debt to GDP ratio is already higher than anytime prior to World War II.
In order to get these tasks done Trump and the GOP need to accomplish several objectives:
our massive negative balance of trade must be significantly reduced if not eliminated; we need to reduce
corporate tax rates in order be more competitive in world markets; we need to provide a mechanism for corporations holding
massive amounts of cash offshore to return that cash to the US and be reinvested in the US economy in some manner by reducing
repatriation taxes; reduce individual tax rates for the middle class to increase their purchasing power. What is the
environment for all of these changes?
has stated he doesn't want to change Social Security and Medicare benefits. On Friday the House rejected changes to
Obamacare ensuring that the entitlement parts of the law continue and that millions of people's cost for health insurance
will continue to rise. The Federal government already has a federal debt of about $21T and a deficit run rate of about
$500B. With GDP growth rates in the 2 percent range and current demographics the deficit will increase to about $1T
per year in the next few years unless major decisions are made to change existing revenue and spending plans.
In addition the Federal Reserve is increasing interest rates which will add compounding cost to government expenditures.
So how does Trump and team accomplish all of their objectives within the constraints that have been established? They
don't. Trump and his team are about to enter "The Debt Box".
The objectives and the constraints of "The Debt Box" are mutually exclusive. There
is no economic model that yields the combination of outcomes that are desired with the constraints being imposed. The
government can cut taxes and spend more. There will be increased growth to some degree, but our national debt will increase
even faster and reach unsustainable levels more quickly. We will get a shot of economic stimulus but it will wear off
over time. Trump's team can attempt to cut many areas of federal spending to contain debt growth but they
will have to fight every special interest group in DC to get it done, maybe. Trump's team can change their approach
and attempt to restructure entitlements, including Obamacare again, but that will create a buzz saw of opposition.
What Trump will soon find out is that
the US is in a debt box with no way out that a signifcant majority of the people support. No matter which approach he
attempts to take there will be special interest groups fighting him every step of the way. The groups with the least
power are those that want to contain the Federal debt. It is likely that the politicans will attempt to sell a story
to the public that their plans will provide so much economic growth that debt growth that is guaranteed to happen quickly will
be contained within manageable levels. We haven't been able to do this during the past 50 years. Why do we
expect a different outcome now? We shouldn't.
It will be interesting to see how Trump, the Congressional leaders and the media react as the nation works through
the tax reform agenda and its impact on federal budgets and programs. If you thought the Obamacare reform debacle was
interesting you ain't seen nothing yet!
Gray Man Novels
Courtland (Court) Gentry is the Gray Man. Court is also know
as Sierra Six, Six and many other aliases as he completes his assignments as a professional assassin. He was trained
by the CIA and honed his skills as an independent operator killing for hire. His life is very complicated. He
is continually on the run attempting to stay alive as the CIA and others attempt to find and kill him. The
exploits of the Gray Man are legendary in the world of covert operators.
Mark Greaney took over Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series of novels before Clancy died and continues to write
new novels in the series. Greaney also created his own characters in the Gray Man novels. The Gray Man is a very
unique character. He is a man unafraid to take on what appears to be impossible assignments. He adapts on the
fly and deals with intense levels of personal pain. He appears to be very ordinary but is unique in his abilities.
The Gray Man novels are full of action. They are bloody. They
are full of surprises. I have read the first five of the Gray Man novels, all currently available in paperback.
If you are interested in reading this series of books I suggest you read them in their order of publication because there
are many references in the novels to events in the prior novels.
The Gray Man - 2009
Target - 2010
Ballistic - 2011
Dead Eye - 2013
Back Blast - 2016
The Gray Man returned to action a few weeks ago in Gunmetal Gray, number six in the Gray Man series.
I look forward to reading about the new assignments of Court Gentry.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Four Corners of Infoworld
There are advantages and disadvantages of being "retired".
One major advantage is that one has time to gather incredible amounts of information from a variety of sources from all over
the world. If one is fortunate some of that information can be obtained from seeing places and events in real time in
person. Obviously, each of us can only be in one place at one time. I think most of us would love to be able
to witness critical events in the world in person but "being there" is inherently limiting if your interests
are very broad. In addition we can watch TV reports from all over the world, sometimes in real time and sometimes reports
of events. Our communications network technology has evolved to the point where we can read and view massive
amounts of information on-line. This gives us incredible access to all different kinds of media from all over
the planet 24 hours a day seven days a week. The Infoworld is massive and if any of us have the time and desire, we
have an incredible opportunity to absorb massive amounts of information.
One of the disadvantages of attempting to absorb massive amounts of information is determining how much of the information
we are absorbing is fact or true and how much is false or purposely placed out of context with a goal of misleading the reader
or viewer. How much of the information we are gathering is useful and how much is not? Each of us has
our own reasons for gathering information. Sometimes we are attempting to use that information to help us achieve our
personal objectives. Sometimes it is to help us make judgements about our political system and its processes.
In the US each of us has the opportunity to be as active or inactive as we wish with regard to our political system.
In other cases people are interested in gathering information for there own edification. They have no reason for learning
other than simply to be educated on a current or historical event. All of these reasons for gathering information are
fine. It is up to each of use to make our own decision about how much information to gather and how to use it.
After spending a number of years of information
gathering in the Infoworld, I feel to a certain degree, that I am in a basketball game with my opponent, the players
in the Infoworld, playing a four corner offense. It is like a pre-shot clock basketball game where one team is
throwing the ball from one corner to another on the court and me, the defender, is attempting to catch the ball and learn
Who are the four players
on the other team?
#1 is what I am seeing
and hearing with my own eyes and ears in real time. This can be in any location, watching in person or on live
TV or on-line. My objective is to capture as best as I can what I have witnessed.
#2 is corporate media (also called mainstream media by many). These are large
corporations whose fundamental reason for existence is to operate a successful business. If they happen to deliver
facts to the their viewers and listeners that it a secondary objective. I have watched many inaccurate news reports
recapping events that I watched live. It is clear that the material presented was edited for a non-objective purpose.
Too many people in corporate media have objectives that have nothing to do with facts or truth.
#3 is called the alternative media. Alternative media exists on-line.
It ranges from far left to far right and everywhere in between. You can find somebody somewhere on the web that has
facts or an opinion about a subject that interests you. I consider this website to a form of alternative media.
The problem with alternative media are the simple questions "Who are those guys? What do they really know?
Are they lying to the public to serve a particular agenda?"
#4 is a wild card. A player with unique skills and understanding that is playing the Infoworld game
at a different level. If you have read my article DISCLOSURE, www.thepurplemuse.com/id62.html, you are familiar with Dr. Steven Greer, founder of the Disclosure Project, www.siriusdisclosure.com. I have
met Dr. Greer and attended one of his seminars in person. I have spent a lot time watching many videos of his seminars
and read two of his books. He will be releasing a new movie and book titled Unacknowledged
in April. If you accept what Dr. Greer has to say about a number of topics you must look at the
world and the other players in the Infoworld differently.
Compounding the issue of the four corners game is the fact that politicians and government officials can routinely
misinform or lie to the public without any liability other than the outcome of the next election cycle. Even
if we work hard to find what we think are facts, are they really? Playing the Infoworld game is difficult. Some
people have given up the game or simply don't care to play. Others want to find the truth and will work hard to
get it but the time they can dedicate to it is limited. Some of us have a fair amount of time but our energy isn't what
it used to be. Maybe there will be a day where we grab a ball of facts and learn the truth and advance the ball toward
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
James Bond - 007 Part 2
On October 6, 2016, I commented on Ian Fleming's first seven James
Bond novels. Since October I read Fleming's last seven books. My comments on these books are
For Your Eyes Only
- 1960 - A book of five short stories with some familiar titles for Bond movie fans: From A View To A Kill,
For Your Eyes Only, Quantum of Solace, Risico, The Hildebrand Rarity
Thunderball - 1961 - Began as a movie script. Book caused lawsuits against
Fleming. Bond goes after SPECTRE again. Action in the UK and the Bahamas.
The Spy Who Loved Me - 1962 - A Bond novel written from a completely different perspective.
Bond appears at the end of the book to save the day. Action takes place in upstate New York.
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - 1963 - Bond goes against SPECTRE again.
Lots of action in Switzerland. Bond gets married. His new wife is killed.
You Only Live Twice - 1964 - Bond goes against SPECTRE for the last time
in Japan. Can Bond recover mentally from the loss of his wife? Bond's relationship with Kissy Suzuki leaves some
The Man with
the Golden Gun - 1965 - Bond is sent to Jamaica to kill Scaramanga after recovering from being brainwashed. The
last James Bond novel. The book had not completed the editing process and was not published at the time
of Fleming's death. So is the ending truly Fleming's ending?
Octopussy - 1967 - A book of three short stories, Octopussy, The Living Daylights and
The Property of a Lady that was published after Flemings death.
Fleming died at the age of 56 in 1964 after having health issues for several years. The later Bond books were
written by Fleming while his health was declining and he had marital problems. Some experts believe Fleming's personal
issues impacted his writing. In the end of his last three novels Bond is severely mentally or physically injured
in each story. It is not clear where Bond is headed next.
The Bond movies have very little to do with Fleming's books even when the titles are the same. It
would be wonderful if a production company filmed a movie series based on the books as written by Fleming. I
believe that very good movie scripts could be written that closely follow the narrative in the books. They
would also generate tremendous interest in Ian Fleming, the person and novelist, not just a creator of the
James Bond character.