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Friday, July 25, 2014

Barry Clifford: The Business Of Fear

The business of fear is a trillion dollar industry. There is no doubt about. Wall Street has made fortunes on it, the health industry lives of it, and religion cannot exist without it. 

Have you noticed in recent times when it came to health we were warned of the severe acute respiratory flu otherwise known as the s.a.r.s  virus, then came the bird flu, and the foot and mouth disease has been a familiar stand by, and there was the deadly killer bees and wasps, not forgetting the aids carrying mosquito and a whole other alphabet soup of diseases that would just bore your mind in the telling of it all.

Governments from every corner of the globe pored money into them and yet the common cold killed more people than all of them put together including the ones not mentioned. The main beneficiary was the health industry that of course incorporates ‘legal’ drugs. In fact so many drugs created that it is them that account for the majority of all new illnesses as the body breaks down under the generations born from the original recipients of them.

Then there is finance. We were warned over and over again of the ticking time bomb of debt here and abroad, yet more millionaires are created in the countries who are supposedly hopelessly indebted, and more powerful these countries do become as their debts escalates. Infrastructure has not suffered overall or technology. The poor gets poorer for they are usually the ones paying the price.

Religion is a good one to make money out of fear. It is not just an incredible money- making machine, the goods on offer here is mouth watering based on fear- how about everlasting life. A hard one to beat that and the money will never stop in selling this remedy for fear.

War thrives on fear. Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, sold the German people a war built around it and George Bush sold another one based on the fear of weapons of mass destruction and a spoonful of sugar. War is everywhere and profits for the weapons to fight them only go up on the balance sheet.

Technology based fear will always make money. Do you remember when the computers of every size, make and shape across the globe were suppose to fail on January 1st in the year 2000? In fact the fear was so well sold that “unless you lived off the land and used a horse and cart for transport, you were basically fuc……ed”  It was conservatively estimated that it would cost then over 600 billion dollars to fix it. Many companies were predicted to go bankrupt. Many did, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a non-existent problem that left their working capital balance as nil.

And so the business of fear goes on. What does actually kill us is quite legal apparently: like cigarettes, alcohol, margarine, conveyor belt foodstuffs, domestic and commercial pollutants, over prescribed medicines and more. Yet weed never killed anyone except heal and fought bitterly to keep it illegal. If you have some, give me a call so I can ease all my 'real' fears.  

Barry Clifford 

5 Cardinal Rules For Living

 Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your present

What other people think of you is none of your business

Time heals almost everything.

No one is in charge of your happiness- except you

Don’t compare your life to others and don’t judge them- you have no idea what their journey is about and they have no idea about your journey

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

John Waters: A prisoner of the State

                                                              John Waters going to prison

John Waters, former scribe for the Irish Catholic, then the Irish Times and is now with the Irish Independent, tries to re-invent himself again, and this time as a light hearted writer. This is no easy task for a dour and sad religious zealot who believes that there is no such thing as depression, with a hopeless sense that he is last word which puts him at least on a par with God, and considers himself that he is the moral voice for the people as he tells us in his headline piece on today’s Independent that “everyone should spend time behind bars- if only to appreciate their freedom.”

Then he preaches that he has ‘spent time’ behind bars, his preamble meant as a parable to enlighten us as to what that has meant to him and what it should mean to us. His 90 minutes of incarceration was the result of him not paying a parking fine, and it was cheaper to go to jail and have the bill land on the taxpayer than pay it himself. This included legal bills, his transport there, police and warden manpower and meals, just so he could save money while being martyred and get free publicity all at the same time.

Since that time it seems he has been cultivating revenge of sorts against the man he feels is responsible for having put him there, the Dublin City Manager. A lot can happen in 90 minutes and it can make an idle mind believe that he has changed the course of history in Ireland, believing among another things that he should take some credit for the drop in people sent to prison for the non-payment of court ordered fines since his publicity stunt.

He tells us he had a few laughs in the cell not withstanding he had no key to get out with his cellmates. The ride there was pleasant, in fact everything was that way. Even the door to the prison looked like any door to any well- heeled hotel. The reality was, it was more like a hotel than a prison on the other side of the door as well. But there was marked differences mind you.

Like a warden going through your stuff, and if you had silk panties in there or bondage equipment, then you might just feel as if you were coming home. John expected to at least stay overnight but I don’t thing the State was amused, so their agony in his company was mercifully reduced to that all precious 90 minutes. John though considers that time there to be his badge of honor and at least he knows now where his citizenship begins and his liberty ends. Ah yes, John Waters: a prisoner of the State.

He does like to massage the figures with what he claims it cost the State/taxpayer, as in the €145 he saved in that 90 minutes, which worked out according to the Waters version, €100 an hour without the cents. In fact it cost over €7000 in the round to put him up in that restricted Hotel California, not including the €145. And to think that John also wrote a book called, The Intelligent Persons Guide To A Modern Ireland, though I believe he was only really referencing himself in the third person. There is also talk that he is working on The Bible, The John Waters version. I can only pray that it isn’t true.

Barry Clifford

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The debt apocalypse has been called off

               (It’s hard to escape the feeling that debt panic served a political purpose)

For much of the past five years readers of political and economic news were left in little doubt that budget deficits and rising debt were the most important issues facing America. Serious people issued dire warnings that the United States risked turning into another Greece any day now. President Barack Obama appointed a special, bipartisan commission to propose solutions to the alleged crisis, and spent much of his first term trying to negotiate a Grand Bargain on the budget with Republicans.
That bargain never happened because Republicans refused to consider any deal that raised taxes.
Nonetheless, debt and deficits have faded from the news. And there’s a good reason for that disappearing act: the whole thing turns out to have been a false alarm.

I’m not sure whether most readers realise just how thoroughly the great fiscal panic has fizzled - and the deficit scolds are, of course, still scolding. They’re even trying to spin the latest long-term projections from the Congressional Budget Office – which are distinctly non-alarming – as somehow a confirmation of their earlier scare tactics. So this seems like a good time to offer an update on the debt disaster that wasn’t.

About those projections: the budget office predicts that this year’s federal deficit will be just 2.8 per cent of GDP, down from 9.8 per cent in 2009.
It’s true that the fact that we’re still running a deficit means federal debt in dollar terms continues to grow, but the economy is growing too so the budget office expects the crucial ratio of debt-to-GDP to remain more or less flat for the next decade.

Things are expected to deteriorate after that, mainly because of the impact of an aging population on Medicare and social security. But there has been a dramatic slowdown in the growth of healthcare costs which used to play a big role in frightening budget scenarios. As a result, despite aging, debt in 2039 is projected to be no higher, as a percentage of GDP, than the debt America had at the end of the second World War or that Britain had for much of the 20th century.

Debt spiral
Oh, and the budget office now expects interest rates to remain fairly low, not much higher than the economy’s rate of growth. This in turn weakens, indeed almost eliminates, the risk of a debt spiral in which the cost of servicing debt drives debt even higher.

Still, rising debt isn’t good. So what would it take to avoid any rise in the debt ratio

Surprisingly little. The budget office estimates that stabilising the ratio of debt-to-GDP at its current level would require spending cuts and/or tax hikes of 1.2 per cent of GDP if we started now or 1.5 per cent of GDP if we waited until 2020. Politically that would be hard given total Republican opposition to anything a Democratic president might propose, but in economic terms it would be no big deal, and wouldn’t require any fundamental change in our major social programmes.

In short, the debt apocalypse has been called off.
Wait, what about the risk of a crisis of confidence?
There have been many warnings that such a crisis was imminent, some of them coupled with surprisingly frank admissions of disappointment that it hadn’t happened yet. For example, Alan Greenspan warned of the “Greece analogy” and declared that it was “regrettable” that US interest rates and inflation hadn’t yet soared.

But that was more than four years ago, and both inflation and interest rates remain low. Maybe the United States, which among other things borrows in its own currency and therefore can’t run out of cash, isn’t much like Greece after all.
Even within Europe the severity of the debt crisis diminished rapidly once the European Central Bank  began doing its job, making it clear that it would do “whatever it takes” to avoid cash crises in nations that have given up their own currencies and adopted the euro.
Did you know that Italy, which remains deep in debt and suffers much more from the burden of an aging population than the US does, can now borrow long term at an interest rate of only 2.78 per cent?

Did you know that France, which is the subject of constant negative reporting, pays only 1.57 per cent?
So we don’t have a debt crisis and never did. Why did everyone important seem to think otherwise?

To be fair, there has been some real good news about the long-run fiscal prospect, mainly from healthcare. But it’s hard to escape the sense that debt panic was promoted because it served a political purpose – that many people were pushing the notion of a debt crisis as a way to attack social security and Medicare.

And they did immense damage along the way, diverting the nation’s attention from its real problems – crippling unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure and more – for years on end.

By Paul Krugman

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is a man from the old order that has straddled the new. The transition has not been an easy one for him in Russia, for to embrace democracy as we know it began it’s decline since he moved into power by the threat of a wagging finger under a posture of imagined violence. Since then he has delivered on that imagination and brought it into a terrifying reality.

He has many enemies that includes his friends who wait as hyenas sitting at his table with or without an invitation. There are many mouths to feed at the top in the theocracy that he now rules and the masses are getting hungry. He provides nothing new as a leader except the standard behavior of any despot that can only hold on to power by keeping the people’s mind elsewhere.

With the World Bank reporting that almost 50% of the GDP of Russia is eaten up by corruption and falling fast also in the international corruption index from 90th place to 129th position, shows that Putin is in trouble. And unless you are the ultimate business gambler, you do not do business here in this Russia unless you are one of them in spirit. But like all thieves it will only be a matter of time before each thief tries to destroy the other.

It is not that Putin is wholly corrupt it is just that he is in too deep with the ‘enemy within’ and does not know how to get out of it. So like the Roman Emperors of old, Putin distracts the citizens with a local small war or two to keep them from rising up and where only he rises in the popularity polls.

That is in the main the only reason he has claimed back Crimea and supports the other thugs in the Ukraine wearing balaclavas and heaving beer bellies while carrying AK47’s as peacemakers. This distraction will work for a time and he has already shown his limitations as a backyard bully by not being able to control these dim-witted murdering thugs. Yet Europe is showing a familiar restraint of nothing less than an appeasement of Putin and his cronies. This of course has already empowered him and there is talk he is even taller than we first thought. The theatre of distraction is working very well indeed.

The problem with appeasement as Winston Churchill pointed out so well regarding Hitler, is that an appeaser is like someone feeding a crocodile hoping it will eat him last. So far Putin still appears to be un-sated and only momentary startled by the worlds reaction to him that he is actually the ‘bad guy.’

When he recovers from this self discovery, rest assured he will carry on as if nothing happened for the other reality is Vladimir Putin is really not in charge at all and his narcissism is real. And as he rides the tigers, to quote Winston again, the tigers are getting hungrier and old Vlad is in real danger of falling of.

The blame game is the only show in town for now until more innocent people die and someone somewhere decides to do something that has any real meaning or impact beyond tired old rhetoric. Until then, it is best advised not to buy any more Russian French fries. 

Barry Clifford