Crazy Political Agendas in the Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

French Flag

It’s been about three days since the ISIS attacks on Paris and the United States media is still buzzing from it. A lot of the noise is basic updates regarding the attack, like the number of assailants, how they were killed, where some of them were from, and updates on the number of casualties. However, 72 hours is an eternity with regard to turning the unfortunate events into clickbait articles for zealots, and I’d like to hit on some of those.

  1. Blame the refugees – At least one of the terrorists had a passport that is traceable back to the flow of immigrant refugees that entered Europe via Greece. As a result, some are calling for the immediate closing of all borders between the middle east and Europe; this would be a devastating blow to humanity though. Hundreds of thousands of people are living in far greater within the borders of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan than anywhere else in the world, including those living in France. And it is legitimate fear, considering hundreds of thousands have been killed already, a number that is likely to continue growing for the foreseeable future. Now don’t get me wrong, the influx of refugees from these regions is a risk on behalf of the countries allowing them in, but the humanitarian reward is far greater than the risk. Also keep in mind, the mastermind of the attacks is a European national, and all the other terrorists known have been French or Belgian nationals as well. This attack was not the result of overt terrorist refugees, and disallowing refugees from entering Europe is highly unlikely to stop the next attack. If I am certain of anything with regard to this global mess of shit, it is these two things:
    1. Every member of ISIS should be burned alive while being fed their genitals
    2. Anyone living under a constant threat from ISIS in Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan should be provided safe haven somewhere around the world, because no one, *regardless of religion*, should have to live with that fear.
  2. Islam *is* ISIS – This is probably the most offensive sentiment to come forward from this disaster, and that is that all of Islam is equatable to ISIS. This is so far beyond insanity I don’t even know where to begin… so let’s start 1000 years ago when the Pope (yes, the leader of Catholicism) called on Christians to militarize and seize the holy lands from Muslims, killing everyone that stood in their way (including lots of Jews). Along the way, crusaders would recruit young men (14 – 16 year olds) with the promise that fighting for the pope would guarantee you forgiveness from all sins and entry into the promised land. Sounds familiar yet?? Yeah it was 1000 years ago so it’s hard to judge, right? Well keep in mind 1000 years from now, just like the little blip from 10th grade history class spent learning about the crusades is exactly what people will be learning regarding the events of today. So stop wasting your energy hating billions of people when it’s an unbelievably small subset of radicals that are the problem. Also keep in mind, no religion is without its radicals, from KKK God-fearing “Christians” all the way to racist Buddhist monks in Myanmar. More than anything, these events will be remembered for its hate and hate inspired killing, just like the crusades.
  3. Obama’s Fault – The attack on Paris is as much Obama’s fault as 9/11 was President Bush’s fault. Arguably even less for Obama since he’s not sworn an oath to protect the people of France. If you want to really start playing the blame game, let’s blame Bush for invading Iraq in the first place which is largely responsible for creating ISIS. Nah forget that, let’s go back further and blame Bill Clinton for upholding economic sanctions in Iraq and keeping military troops in Saudi Arabia, two of the main motives behind the 9/11 attacks. Nope, not far back enough, we need to blame Bush Senior for imposing the sanctions and placing troops in Saudi Arabia in the first place. Actually, let’s blame the Reagan administration for initially arming Al-Qaeda in an attempt to kill Russians near the end of the cold war and then abandoning them as soon as the Berlin wall fell. Fuck it, let’s also blame President Truman for being president when the first order of the United Nations was to essentially create an independent Israel, a major source of butt-hurt for these terrorist assholes.

By now, hopefully you’re thinking “OK Mr.Smart Guy, what’s the solution?”, to which I will reply “fuck if I know”. As I said above, the only things I am certain about is that I want to see all of ISIS executed and in the meantime refugees granted safe haven. There are lots of renewed talks of sending ground troops into Syria to flush them out, which on the surface sounds great, but it’s also the same strategy from 14 years ago the created this recent problem. If you flush them all out of Syria and Iraq, they’ll move to Yemen, or Libya, or Pakistan. And then the second the troops leave Iraq and Syria the terrorists move right back in as if they never left. It’s not as easy as just sending troops in. It’s always nice to think all problems have simple solutions, but the reality is complicated problems often have complicated solutions.

If anything, try and take a step back and look at the situation as objectively as possible. Then and only then will you be able to see through all the zealot-feeding political hate and bullshit.

Coca-Cola Sparked Hatred to Sell Sugar Water

Muy Bien
Muy Bien

Have you seen any of the aftermath for what seemed like a harmless Coca-Cola Superbowl commercial? The one where a diverse group of people sing America the Beautiful in different languages? Oh, it also supposedly featured the first gay couple in a Super Bowl ad spot? Yeah that’s the one. Have you seen the uproar? Where do we even begin..

First, the emphasis on language is just tiresome. People are offended that a patriotic-American song is being sung in different languages. If anything, this should be taken as a complement to America, not an insult. America should be thought of as a place to be desired by all peoples of all races and cultures. If the offended love America so much, what’s wrong with others envying what you love so much?

Also on the subject of language, keep in mind words and speech are entirely arbitrary. They are made up sounds engineered by human beings that evolve over time into chaotic structures that try and make sense of our surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, communication is important, but not nearly as important as the underlying message for what these words represent: beauty, love, anger, triumph; it is all the same regardless of language.

Former Congressman Allen West says this kind of commercial balkanizes the United States instead of unifying it. I can say with 100% certainty that he is wrong; it is people like Mr. West balkanizing the United States by saying things like this. Mr. West is (sadly) a powerful influence to his many followers, and by saying stuff like this he is now a proponent of dividing people. Had he just accepted the commercial, or said nothing about it, West would have done a far greater service to the effort of unifying people. Instead, West further pushes the intolerance envelope by enlarging what should not have been a non-issue in the first place.

With regard to the gay couple in the ad, I know there is nothing I can say to make the offended care less about this. Though, I will point out the woman who wrote the song America the Beautiful more than 100 years ago, Katherin Lee Bates, was very likely a lesbian herself. She lived with the same woman for more than 25 years. Of course, this may just make the offended hate the song now, so what’s the use?

Why hate this commercial for political reasons, or at all for that matter? It’s a Coca-Cola commercial, not a government/Obama/political commercial. It’s a multinational corporation selling you sugar water. It’s not a spark for a debate on immigration reform. It is nothing but an advertisement. How do non-English speaking people really affect your lives? How do gay people really affect your lives? These things likely have no impact on your day to day life, so why muster the energy to hate on these things? Because it’s easy to hate?

What I really want to say is just live and let live you crazy fucks. Or, to put it more eloquently than I ever could, I will let the late Roger Ebert take it away:

I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances.

Will Work for Beer? Move to Amsterdam.

Dick Sharpe in 10 years
Dick Sharpe in 10 years

Happy 80 years of repeal! What better way to celebrate this glorious memorial than by sharing with you, our dear fans, that there is now a way for you to be homeless AND work for beer. Yes, you heard (read) me right – work for beer! The New York Times yesterday reported a story where homeless alcoholics in Amsterdam can pick up garbage around the city for cans of beer. The program is remarkably simple: 2 cans of beer just for showing up, then 2 more cans for lunch (with free food), and then depending on performance, 1 or 2 cans to knock off a good day’s work. Oh and don’t worry, the program also pays 10 euros (and rolling tobacco) for the days work, which may cover the cab ride back to your homeless shelter.

The idea behind it all is that, you cannot tell alcoholics to stop drinking, so why not put them to productive work rather than having them rot in a park somewhere? Depending on your personal level of social empathy, this is brilliant or extortion of people’s addictive disorders. It’s certainly riddled with controversy, even in a country where social welfare is very high relative to the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on the matter? stepasideshow @ gmail.com

The Apple Tax Sideshow

Cash-Money
Can’t wait for iCoin to be developed

This week, the United States Senate has released a report detailing the types of international tax shelters Apple has used to avoid paying US federal taxes, as well as taxes in Europe. The amount of tax savings may be surprising to the uninformed; up to $74 billion over 5 years. It was not shocking to me when the panel also determined that the single largest US corporation did not break any tax laws to accomplish this. Yet, even though no laws were broken, Apple CEO Tim Cook is speaking before the congressional committee to explain the company’s actions.

The whole thing is a sideshow though. Independent journalists have been pointing out these loopholes for decades among all the largest United States corporations. The irony is these loopholes would not even exist if it weren’t for the very same people carrying out this investigation. And these very same people are not very likely to change anything, because lets face it, those who fund their campaigns earn the most from these loopholes in the first place (I’m not suggesting here that Apple is behind these loopholes either, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they had tax lobbyists like every other public company).

It’s always good when the media sheds some light on stories like this. However, without any serious changes to campaign finance laws, we are not likely to see any big changes. And on top of that anyway, multinational company taxes are complicated by the simple fact that they operate in multiple countries, and no country’s tax codes look alike. A real solution to this “problem” would need to be met with international support, and we all know how easy that is.

Obama, Syria, and Stupid Op-Eds

Syria
Syria

Syria is a clusterfuck right now, plain and simple. In what is now a 2-year old civil war, more than 120,000 people have been killed in the country. On one side is a dictator opposed to any overly drastic changes to the government, and is willing to kill any citizen that stands in the way. On the other side, the opposition forces want the dictator removed for power in favor of a more democratic government. After many leaked stories of Syrian government executions and torture of its citizens, much of the world has placed themselves behind the opposition, including long time ally Turkey. Others, such as Iran, stand behind Assad to the extent of sending combat troops to help reinforce the Syrian Army. Russia, while officially a politically neutral country, has been arming the Syrian army because of arms contracts signed prior to the war, much to the dismay of western countries.

Regardless of all the facts, it’s a complicated situation, as any Civil War would be. Even the western countries supporting the opposition forces – they have only done so implicitly by condemning the torture and executions by the Assad regime, and “silently” arming the opposition rebels. Many people and nations look at Syria as a proxy war of Iran versus Western democracies (not so much a proxy for Iran I’d argue, as they’ve already put their hand directly in the war). It’s not a conflict the leaders of the western world exactly want to jump right into.

The latest piece of this complicated puzzle that has been dominating the news the past 2 weeks has been the highly speculated usage of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against the opposition. The usage of chemical weapons is “illegal” by the world standards of modern warfare, but more specific to the United States, was specifically mentioned by President Obama as being a line that we cannot let be crossed. Well now that the line has been crossed, Obama has not actually done anything – not to much surprise, but to much criticism. Take this Wall Street Journal op-ed for example, where the author simply questions the entire tenure of the Obama administration by questioning its foreign policy, deeming it a failure as a whole, and citing Syria as exhibit A. This mindless rhetoric need not tearing apart – most sensible people will know this is the idiotic rhetoric of a PPA (political pundit asshole).

In retrospect, of course, it is easy to tear any decision apart (see here). The presidents plan for right now though, appears to be the correct one. The president made an empty threat in an attempt to deter a maniacal dictator from using chemical weapons, and it failed. It was worth a shot. What’s not worth it would be to make good on that threat and turn to military actions against a country that poses no direct threat to our own security. Instead, turn the case over to the world court and wait for a consensus among its leaders. If the world unanimously decides Syria has taken its civil war far enough and can figure out a plan to end the war and return the country to the people with little to no outside influence, then so be it. But it is not the responsibility of America, or Obama, to fix this. To infer otherwise makes you an asshole.

Best Wall Street Journal Op-Ed (Seriously, it’s good)

I bet the still argue over who is buying lunch
I bet they still argue over who is buying lunch

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fresh post, and it’s not been due to a lack of news. However, rather than comment on any real news stories, I would like to continue my dive into the shitty readership over at the Wall Street Journal – a paper I just cannot get away from. Today’s issue featured a joint post by billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and even bigger billionaire Bill Gates, on the subject of eradicating the polio virus from planet earth. Apparently, eradicating a virus from the face of the planet is not a simple or inexpensive task, yet it is still a task that the Gates foundation decided to take on (it should be noted here that Gates did not initiate the eradication, he joined onto the existing effort of Rotary International). Bill Gates is spending the majority of his fortune to cure the world of things like polio, and Michael Bloomberg just signed up with a donation of $100 million. Not exactly a small chunk of change.

So, if you’re a sane human being with a human heart, you probably find this effort a noble cause, regardless of the political viewpoints of the ones making the donations. On the contrary, if you’re a regular reader at the Wall Street Journal, then this is “narcissism” and “egomania” and so on. Very little credit is given to these men for there efforts in the comments section. Yes, Bloomberg can afford to and still live a comfortable life without his $100 million – but he didn’t have to give it away. He could have easily passed down his wealth like so many others do so none of the world can get the benefit. Had this been Rupert Murdoch, these comments would have been filled with praise but because its the smoking/soda-banning-mayor-of-liberal-city, it’s just another gesture of pure evil. Grow the fuck up people.

Ding Ding – Dick Sharpe Knocked-Out Over European Debt Consolidation Debate

The role of Brooklyn Steve is played by Sylvester Stallone in the 2013 tell all movie

You may recall this past summer where Dick Sharpe and myself debated over the future of Europe, with regard to European debt and how it would all be resolved. Dick Sharpe very naively predicted that Europe would consolidate its debt by September of this year, strengthening the core of the European Union by bundling the weak countries (Greece) with the stronger countries (Germany). I on the other hand, took the far more reasonable side of the debate and predicted Europe would not consolidate any of its debt, and would simply give more money to the flailing countries still on the Euro.

Well, the fight is over. There will be no debt consolidation, only a new regulating body to oversee Europe’s largest banks (excluding any banks in the UK), about 200 in total and each with assets over 30 billion Euros. Additionally, new aid packages will be bundled for countries that need it the most, like Greece, Ireland, and Italy. Finally, most of the regulations decided on in this new package won’t even take place in 2013, as the details need to be worked out among all countries in the European Union to take effect in 2014.

In closing, I’d just like to add: suck it Dick Sharpe, suck it good. Don’t like defeat? Join us for the podcast once in a while and defend yourself.

Apple to Manufacture PCs in the US – Big Mistake

This is how PCs are made!

Apple has recently announced that it will move manufacturing production of one of its PC lines exclusively to the United States in 2013. The speculation is the iMac line, as some of the newer units have already been labeled with “Assembled in USA”. The cost of this move is going to cost the electronic behemoth $100 million. Even though it is a wonderful PR move for Apple, it reeks of financial disaster. Investors already know this, which is why the stock dropped 5% the day before the announcement. It’s a terrible idea for two reasons: 1) this will undoubtedly lower the margin of profit per PC or it will 2) raise the price of PCs. Apple already charges a premium on its PCs relative to the rest of the commercial computer industry, so raising its prices could be harmful. Not raising the prices of the PC line will lead to smaller margins, which will hurt Apple’s bottom line. Throw in the $100 million capital to jump start this effort, and you are creating some real pain for investors.

On the contrary, Apple has so much cash that it uses 100-million-dollar-bills as toilet paper. Apple also makes the majority of its money from iPods, iPhones, and iPads – so sacrificing one of its desktop production lines for good PR might actually make it a pretty reasonable marketing move. All in all, the move will probably end up being a wash for the company and have very little or no impact on the company. So… sorry for wasting your time reading this post. Email your rage at stepasideshow@gmail.com

Mutualize European Debt: Round 12 – “Human Sacrifice, cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!”

peter vernman
“We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”

Let’s finish this once and for all.

You do a great job summarizing the dual-mandate (seriously), however I still fail to see how they can influence unemployment, as this really is a function of the free market. Yes, they can encourage lending by lowering the interest rates to zero (or less), but this does not create organic growth. This kind of dangerous lending can lead to seriously over-manufactured growth, which creates bubbles and ultimately recessions depending on the rate of default. In fact, this sort of thing may have happened recently in the form of mortgages, perhaps you heard about it?

Mutualizing European debt and financial Armageddon are not the only two options on the table (you’re really starting to sound like a professional pundit though, so congrats). You’re forgetting the very simple, very boring middle-of-the-road option of bailing out smaller country’s with short-term payback programs – no real unification and no Armageddon. This will spur a raging amount of mediocre growth over the next 5 – 10 years, after which will be coined “The Lost Decade – European Edition”. I suppose the argument can be made that it’ll bring Europe closer together in the short-term, as Germany will want to make sure as hell Greece and Italy and Spain pay back the loans, but they will in no way be set for the long term.

The reason for my prediction is fairly simple, and that is that there is not enough at stake for unification to take place. Meaning, too many people will make more money in the short term if unification does not happen and too many lifestyle’s will be disrupted if unification were to happen. For instance, Germany would want to impose certain tax laws that other country’s (*cough*Greece*cough*) wouldn’t/couldn’t enforce if they wanted to, and Germany would not be willing to take on the debt burden without said reassurances. Like I’ve said from the beginning, the vast differences in ideology will prevent a European unification. They may get close, I could see them bundling the debt of the weaker country’s like Italy, Spain and Greece – but what happens when you pile shit with more shit? You’re just left with a bigger pile of shit.

I think we’ve exhausted the topic thoroughly at this point, spinning our wheels and re-iterating the same points over and over. We both clearly agree that a unified Europe is better for the world, we just disagree on the timing and the ramifications it will take for Europe to take the steps into unification. This will almost certainly be an interesting read one year from now (maybe even one month as you suggested), as who knows what the ensuing months have in store for us. Ultimately though, the most timeless aspect of these arguments have no doubt been the references to the wonderful movies of our generation, so let’s end it all with a classic…

rodney dangerfield caddyshack
“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!”

Mutualize European Debt: Round 11 “Get to the Chopper!”

 

” Do it Now!”

EAT MY BALLS, Steve. First, yes Europe will mutualize their debt in the near future, or the Euro will fail and Armageddon will rein. Second, there is no case in which a pure austerity plan has worked when not in conjunction with a stimulus plan or some other outside financial windfall. Third, the free market does not exist in a vacuum. Without a Central Bank and a strong federalized government or a trading partner with another capitalist state, capitalism wouldn’t work nearly as well as you think it does. The freemarket is like Tom Cruise, sure he looks nice and works hard but I am not going to leave him alone with my kids or my wife.

The role of the Federal Reserve is to stabilize wages and prices and maximize employment; this is often referred to as the dual mandate. The problem is that while it is possible to stabilize prices or maximize employment by themselves it is nearly impossible to do both at the same time. This is why it appears that the Fed cannot create jobs as if it were a anglo-teenaged wizard conjuring up breasts on his flat-chested best mate (look for Harry Potter and the Tits of Hermione on book shelves this Christmas). “create jobs” is a completly misunderstood term in the modern lexicon, let’s say instead encourage private sector growth.

Basically what a government and a Central Bank have to do to encourage private sector growth is incentivize investments in the right areas and discourage investments in others. One way this is accomplished is by lowering interest rates. What’s that you say, they are already near zero? Well, let’s make them negatives. Oh, you think that can’t be done? Well then, what if inflation rises, that would mean that money invested would be devaluing at the same rate it is gaining interest, or worse, faster, thus creating a short term negative interest rate. The only safe place to put money would be in long-term investments in physical and human capital, thus createing growth. However you may have noticed in this model I had to raise inflation, but inflation today is a damn site closer to the Fed’s target (2%) than the unemployment target (7%). But the Fed doesn’t actually raise inflation nor does the market really; this model just runs a higher risk of raising inflation.

The Fed’s current M.O. is to target inflation, over unemployment, hoping that stable wages and prices will eventually lead to increased growth. The Fed has the power to increase employment but it is not willing to if it means raising their inflation target. For one, they will lose credibility and two, fuck, what if inflation raises faster than employment? Hey, what the shit, I thought we were talking about Europe.

These are my last words on the subject. Germany has pledged to save the Euro, and since the Euro can’t stand without a higher level of cooperation in the European economy there is no choice but to mutualize their debt. It’s not the best choice, it’s the only choice. Seriously, spell out for me, Brooklyn Steve, how the fuck the Euro survives without a mutualization? And if you think that the Euro will collapse then tell me what happens next, who will stop runs on banks, who will be able to print and distribute new currency without panic, hording, or rapid inflation? Save the Euro, mutualize debt, and unite Europe, it’s the only way.

Of course there are those who don’t want to because it is not profitable for them or it goes against their ideology, but being a player in the global economy means doing things that need to be done. It is Ironic to me to think of Germany in this position, maybe because it was their depression that gave rise to Hitler in World War II tried and failed to bring all of Europe to its knees before him. And now Germany is a economic phoenix that rose from the ashes of despair and austerity to save Europe.