The Warning on Privacy and Required Reading

My goal has been to maintain a sense of balance over the ongoing economic and political turmoil but the cumulative news about the IRS, the AP phone pulls and now the revelation of the extent of governmental eavesdropping strike with the force of body blows.  My principal job as a parent – a father – is to not only care for and raise the kids, but prepare them to make their way in the great wide world.  How am I supposed to raise my children to be productive, moral adults in a society which increasingly makes such traits difficult to uphold?

Thanks to the spot-on and hilarious rants of Jon Stewart, even Youngest is aware of the furious controversy over the use of the IRS as a political weapon.  Once the laughter was through, it served as a jumping off spot for a series of short conversations about the function of the IRS and how it’s been mishandled; the conversations have occurred as well with the older two kids.  But with the disclosure of the extent of domestic surveillance by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, there was a very brief and pointed conversation with Eldest as she reclined on the sofa after the end of her work shift.  The preface to the conversation was the question of whether or not she had heard about the NSA domestic surveillance program and when she indicated that she’d heard of it, I advised her to begin following the story at length and directed her to the English newspaper, The Guardian.  The reasonable question was why? and my response was that this particular issue was one that put her own plugged-in generation at greater risk than their elder generations.  And that’s why the warning and start of further conversations about the NSA mess; our kids’ generation – the so-called Millenials – is the most technologically savvy generation in the history of this planet and use the surveilled media for almost all of their various thoughts and plans.  Yet for the technologic erudition, they lack the common sense that dictates what should and shouldn’t be written, what should and shouldn’t be shared, and what should and shouldn’t be discussed via the various media; it’s not unknown for me to cease an electronic conversation simply because there are some things that are best done face-to-face.  That said, a previous career in Risk Management taught me that some things should never be put on paper or digitized simply because it’s potentially discoverable in the event of litigation.  Whether it’s discoverable by opposing counsel or some dink in an NSA cubicle is irrelevant, once it’s out there, it’s out there.

The word came down to Middle as well and he went to the

Just What is Inflation?



(gloomily). It’s too much for one man. (Pause. Cheerfully.) On the other hand what’s the good of losing heart now, that’s what I say. We should have thought of it a million years ago, in the nineties.



                                        – Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett, 1949)

Vladimir is one of the protagonists in Beckett’s absurdist classic Waiting for Godot, the tale of two men who are simply waiting for the arrival of Godot.  We never see Godot, but we know that he’s expected and it’s precisely this play that reminds me of the ongoing debate of whether global monetary policies – the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank – will foster the inflationary environment that’s been predicted; an environment feared by some and hoped for by others.  But just as the audience wonders about Godot – who he is and what he looks like – so there are some who wonder likewise about inflation.  Just what is inflation and what is the cause?  Likewise, what is this deflation that’s so greatly feared by the central banks?





The Conversation

Most fundamentally, the question is whether people are fully understanding of the limits to central banks’ abilities. It is, to repeat, not to be critical of actions to date to wonder whether private market participants, and perhaps more importantly governments, recognise what central banks cannot do. Central banks can provide liquidity to shore up financial stability and they can buy time for borrowers to adjust. But they cannot, in the end, put government finances on a sustainable course and they cannot create the real resources that need to be found from somewhere to strengthen bank capital. They cannot costlessly correct earlier misallocation of real capital investment. They cannot shield people from the implications of having mis-assessed their own life-time budget constraints and as a result having consumed too much.

            – Glenn Stephens, Governor, Royal Bank of Australia

Serendipity lives and this quote came on the cusp of a long, rambling conversation with Middle the other evening after watching Will Ferrell’s The Campaign.  One of the perks of living in this household is that as the kids get a little older, I’ll occasionally permit them to watch an R-rated movie with the proviso that I have the opportunity to pause and explain a few things.  First on the list was that the film’s fictitious Motch Brothers – Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow – are satires on the real-life billionaire Koch Brothers, who muscled into the nascent Tea Party Movement for their own personal benefit.  Second on the list was the plot twist by the brothers to purchase up the congressional district and then import Chinese workers; for the brothers, it was a win-win with no shipping costs and almost slave labor wages. 

But it was at the China juncture that the conversation took flight as it turned


Today is a day that will be spent on errands and some shopping for the upcoming holidays and there’s now an additional item on that list, a box of Twinkies.  They aren’t something that I’ve actually purchased before – so I suppose that I’m part of the reason for the Hostess Corporation demise –  but the soon-to-be Hostess bankruptcy makes them an interesting household piece for discussion. 

The privately held corporation’s bankruptcy has been an item for discussion in the past several days as the Teamsters union put the kabosh on the contract offered by Hostess management.  The interplay of news has been entertaining as one article’s spin puts a negative light on the union’s refusal to ratify the contract, killing the company, while another highlights that the existing management is going to still distribute more than $1.5 million in bonuses.  The lessons for the kids in the next several days could be far-reaching and could go in any number of directions.


Keep Talking, Somebody’s Listening

Most parents can identify the moment when the kids tune out since the eyes glaze over and with a few, the mouth actually drops open.  When younger siblings are present however, I continue what I’m saying since I want them to hear what’s being said.  In a sense, I’m playing to an audience and there are instances in which it’s apparent that they’re taking the commentary to heart.