On the Verge of Revolution…

This is not about Syria, or Egypt, or the European Union, or any other countries experiencing unrest due to political and economic issues.  I expect this revolution is occurring in the United States of America (U.S.).  And I think the upcoming Millennial Generation (a.k.a. Generation Y) will provide the innovation needed for this revolution to prosper.

Unfortunately, the fractionated nature of the Occupy Wall Street protests (OWS), prevented the protests from initiating real change.  OWS’s general complaint is that a small group of the population (the 1%) controls and benefits from the current capitalistic social model.   Before we get into the details of this problem, let’s go back to the Millennials.   Full disclosure: although I am at the cusp of the divide between generations X and Y, I consider myself part of gen X based on the characteristic descriptions and the typical  calendar cut-offs.

Although each generation complains about the group that follows, stereotyping the group based on their phase of life instead of their unique traits.  We all develop and grow with life experience, and so looking at the generations that follows, it’s natural to view the less experienced generation as self-centered.  But when you really look at the Millennial generation, they are already doing profound things.  The second TED Talk featured in this NPR program describes how young people are having a significant impact and are already getting involved with important issues.  It appears the supposed narcissistic generation which only does something for instant gratification, is having to deal with some pretty tough circumstances and is using their confidence to do work beyond themselves.   I see significant social benefits to the Millennial Generation.

The expanding economic gap between the 1% and the 99% is blamed for just about every problem we can think of in the US.  From low wage jobs, to the increasing cost of everything.  I say this is a consequences of capitalism (RSA Video); capitalism incentivizes people to do more for less, improve efficiency, to cheat and manipulate for profits.   The priority to succeed financially has gone awry, and in the process our value on money has defined our self worth.  Generation Y is trying to determine how to reward doing the right thing, helping others, treating your employees well, building stronger and better communities.  We know the answer, but the current economics and definitions of success have yet to incentivize the social good we now value.

doing-good-for-businessBusiness is slow to change, but some companies are finding new models to motivate their staff and still improve profits.  Going green has been good for business lately; as is developing sustainability, providing human rights to factory workers, etc.  Right now you can find out the business practices for some companies and products, check out the Good Guide website or phone app.  Eventually, doing the right thing will have a higher priority than profits benefiting the 1%.  Personally, I’m looking forward to the next business model.

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Profitable Banking Blunders

Well the sub-prime loans didn’t work out too well, but banks are still rolling in the dough.  They are finding plenty of new opportunities for profits:

  • JP Morgan pays $410m settlement (BBC article) – I have no idea about the legality of JP Morgan’s involvement with manipulating energy markets in the US, but I’m sure they are happy to settle this case and avoid too much publicity in the matter.  Barclays was also fined for similar behavior.
  • Goldman Sacs and others manipulate the aluminum market (Hufington Post article) – I think that people are sympathetic that banks exist to make money.  The outrage comes from literally moving aluminum from one warehouse to another, just to manipulate the price.  This does not provide value to the industry, and this is a waste of time, money, fuel, and pollution.  How many times  a week are you purchasing aluminum products?
  • Did you hear the one about the bank getting a life insurance policy on their staff? (WSJ article) – I’m not witty enough to come up with a punchline for this one.  But I can tell you that this is absolutely true.  I know someone working at a bank, none of the banks listed in the linked article, but apparently the year before he started the bank offered employees $1,000 if they would sign for a life insurance policy that the bank would be the beneficiary of.  Rumor has it, the bank then securitized these policies and sold them off.  It’s bad enough if your employer has financial incentive to end your life, but now it’s some unknown person out there.  I predict a rising demand for professional hit-men.
  • Banks use taxpayer money to pay Lobbyists (Business Week article) – not once but at least twice if you read the whole article. Another case of hidden fees so convoluted, the customer has no idea what they are paying for.  I guess the banks thought our state governments have plenty of wealth to share.
  • And of course, Terrorists need a safe institution to hold their funds (wordpress post of Agence France Presse article)

Earlier this week I was convinced by Charlie Reese’s article that 545 senators and congressmen were to blame for any problem in the US, but now I’m thinking it’s the banks managers.

Soon to be Blunders?

  • Brian M. Lucey points out a WSJ article announcing banks to create securities backed by rental agreements… It’s not illegal yet, what will a sub-prime rental agreement look like?

Save Money … Live Better

I’m jealous of Walmart for capitalizing on this phrase so profitable.  If only it were true, but I’ll spare you my personal views of the company.  Instead, lets talk about ways we can actually save money, and actually live better.

I recently started using Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for my skin and hair.  I use it on my hair in the shower, after I wash, rinse, and condition I then pour a mixture of water and ACV on my hair and rinse it out after about 1 minute.  It has really cut down the frizziness in my hair in the summer heat.

On my skin, I use it as a toner for my face.  The smell is awful, I’m not a fan of vinegar, but it rinses away nicely and does not leave a smell.  ACV can also be used to treat athletes foot.  Dilute the ACV with water and wipe onto your skin, then rinse off.

obamacare-save-money-health-careMaybe you already have a product for this purpose.  I’m not telling you ACV is better, how would I know.  It seems that things work differently for everyone.  But here is what I do now.  I try the new option for 1 week, then go back to using my old stuff until the container is gone.  When I go to the store to buy a refill, I can decide if it’s worth the cost, or if the cheaper alternative worked well enough.

We have been tricked into using many products, just to make money for other people.  Some of these products are harmful to the environment, to other animals, or to ourselves.   We don’t know the full effects of these products.  I have used eye cream that makes my eyes water, I guess that’s how it reduces puffy eyes.

I heard a report about testing of medications.  The testing is not required to measure effectiveness compared to similar products, the testing is performed and compared to a “Do Nothing” option.  Well it’s pretty easy to show an improvement compared to “Do Nothing.”  Then the sales teams use those studies to sell the products.  And few people are testing different alternatives compared to each other, wouldn’t it be nice to have a group that is incentivised to take this information and evaluate everything together, running comparison experiments if feasible.

Imagine how many products we trust, when testing has been evaluated in this same way?  What if there are better products, or better items that we already have at home.

Vinegar is also great for cleaning stainless steel.  I cleaned a lot of rust from my trash can using vinegar alone.

What are your tricks for saving  money and living better?

Money, Power, & Wall Street

English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street

Wall Street sign on Wall Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just finished watching the PBS Frontline show of that title.  Granted it’s 4 hours long, but a good summary of the financial crash, bank and financial risk, the banks bailouts and the government’s role.  As an uneducated citizen in these topics, I learned a lot.  “We can absolutely reform banks… it was a political will issue and it continues to be.  And the question isn’t, are we going to create something perfect.  The question is are we going to create something better than this.  It’s actually a pretty low bar.”

Makes you wonder if we can ever trust these markets, and any job with this type of financial incentive.

So if you think you have a sure bet for gaining financial profit, make sure you understand the risk associated.