Posts Tagged ‘The 1%’

Lessons From Game Of Thrones – Living in the shadow of oligarchy…

May 26, 2015

Oligarchy - Lessons from Game of ThronesLike many fans of Game Of Thrones, I am often surprised at how the show forces us to look at ourselves in the mirror and contemplate our own relentless march towards oligarchy.  For those who don’t watch the show, the “Game Of Thrones”  is literally a game played by a few great families at the expense of all below them.  They don’t govern, they rule and to the victor belongs the spoils of both power and wealth.

Our constitution is not a shield against tyranny…

There was a time, not long ago, when most Americans would have arrogantly assumed that we had risen beyond such  stark differences between the haves and have nots.  Cloaked in the protections of our constitution middle and working class Americans felt safe from the exploitation that dominates feudal societies like the ones seen  in GOT.   Trade unions supported the middle and working classes and the “one man, one vote” concept of our republic would  ensured that the very structure of our government would prevent any backsliding  towards oligarchic rule.

What we forgot was the lessons of history.  That power and money has a relentless propensity for concentrating itself in the hands of a very few.   We forgot that  if left to its own devices, without checks, balances and constant vigilance,  any capitalistic economy would always push relentlessly toward plutocracy.  Unfortunately, with our eyes off the ball, we took a 30-year political nap and woke up to a nightmare.

The Powerful Prey on the Powerless…

In the first episode of season 5 Tyrion and Varys have a conversation about power and justice.

Tyrion: What is it that you want exactly?
Varys:  Peace. Prosperity. A land where the powerful do not prey on the powerless.
Tyrion: Where the castles are made of gingerbread an the moats are filled with blackberry wine.  The powerful have always preyed on the powerless.  That’s how they became powerful in the first place.
Varys:  Perhaps.  And perhaps we’ve grown so used to the horror we assume there’s no other way.

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Bill Gross and Defining “Normalcy”….

July 27, 2014

In my previous blog on income inequality   I quoted  Bill Gross, the founder and chief investment officer of PIMCO who in a USA Today article   eschewed present-day excesses in the market place and called for a return to “normalcy”.  Not surprisingly, conservatives who dominated the comment thread implied that Gross presumed a great deal  when he attempted to define “normalcy”.

Just because slavery or indentured servitude are historically “normal” – doesn’t make it right…

Few would probably disagree with the heading above.  However, many commenters questioned Gross’s  definition of normalcy.  “Who’s to say what is normal anyway?”  asked one commenter.  To his credit, Gross defined what was NOT “normal” with our current system and his criteria seemed spot-on to me:

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Of Pitchforks, Revolutions, Capitalism and our Better Angels…

July 20, 2014

Its a rare thing when within one week I run across two articles written by two very different members of the  financial elite (the  0.1-0.015%) ringing alarm bells about  the rising tide of income inequality. But it happened this week.  Both addressed their fellow plutocrats directly and had the audacity to speak out strongly against the rising tide income inequality.

Nick Hanauer and the Tedtalk that wasn’t…

NIck Hanauer, a very successful entrepreneur, CEO and philanthropist is decidedly a part of the  exclusive financial elite. He is also no stranger to controversy.  In 2012 Mr Hanauer gave a TEDtalk that TED declined to post.   Why?  Well as it turns out that instead of invoking his own personal success story, Mr. Hanauer had the chutzpah to focus his talk on the emerging oligarchy , income inequality and its impact on business, society and the economy. OOPSIE!   TEDtalks are all about rugged individualism and empowerment – that’s a no-no!

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Lessons From Game of Thrones: Invention & Innovation Requires Public Commitment

July 16, 2014

In the very first episode of a Game of Thrones,  10-year-old  Branden Stark had an unfortunate “accident”. He was pushed from a high window and nearly died. Although he survived, he was paralyzed from the waist down.  A few episodes later,  the decidedly book-smart and wealthy  Lord Tyrion Lannister offered Bran a gift.  He designed  a special saddle so Bran could ride horseback once again.

The YouTube ID of vGN73ufuc4U?t=22s is invalid.

Invention often happens that way.  Someone with the technological know-how and the money, sees a need and acts to fill that need.  This is but one of the more minor routes to discovery and invention.  It is simple, direct, but far from the most likely.  For the most part, big gains and earth changing discoveries are generally not sprints; they are marathons.

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Lessons From Game of Thrones – Players & Pawns – which are you?

June 14, 2014

This is part 1 of 2 parts…

I was going to move off my Game of Thrones metaphor for a couple of posts, but my last blog on “Players, Pawns and Little Finger” brought something interesting to my attention.  I have to admit that it was something I found deeply disturbing…In that post I embedded a YouTube clip on Little Finger’s monologue “The Climb”.  In the monologue he describes chaos as a ladder that he intends to climb in order to achieve ultimate power.

Apparently, many people have found this monologue “inspiring”.  A few indicated that they listen to it every day as it gets them going in the morning, implying that it helps them realize that they are in charge of their own destiny. 

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Lessons from Game of Thrones – Players, Pawns & Littlefinger…

June 9, 2014

There was a time in America when the political powers that be actually feared the wrath of the people. Our elected officials were regarded as public servants and woe be to them if they did not enact policies that served the interests of their constituents.

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Lessons From Game Of Thrones – Melisandre and extremism as an antidote to reason…

June 6, 2014

The human race has always lived in the shadow of dogma.  It has perverted our history in many a violent way and has sowed the seeds of self-destruction for more than one society.

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When the wealth of a few jeopardizes the security of the many…

January 29, 2014

Raspberry & Mandarin cheesecakeThe President is making his State of the union address tonight. We have been told to look forward to a speech dominated by issue of “income inequality”.   A divisive issue – most certainly, but timely and long overdue as the centerpiece of  domestic policy.

In a recent column in the New York Times (The Inequality Problem)  David Brooks  indicated that targeting the obscene wealth of the top 1% might be a moot point since the wealth at the top, though massively higher than it was in the past, is not making the rest of the world poorer.  To that assumption, the most polite thing I can think to say is “horse hockey!”

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Reflections on Patriotism & Old Glory….

July 3, 2013

For those of you who don’t know, I make part of my living as a professional photographer.  The bulk of this post was on my professional photography blog, but its content is very relevant (perhaps even more relevant) to this blog since it discusses the state of our union – or rather disunion.   I include the photo for impact because as someone who loves their country, mouthing platitudes and waving flags is no longer enough.

For those who don’t know, this flag flies over the town of Mamaroneck every year on Mamaroneck Ave.  I don’t know any other town in Westchester that flies the flag in quite this way, but I really enjoy the effect.  Its understated patriotism without the bells, whistles, and fireworks, yet it has high impact.

On a personal note, this is the 5th independence we are celebrating since the financial collapse of 2008.   Over the past five years I have watched the pitiful and often disingenuous attempts by our government to curtail the excesses of the “free-market cowboys” in the banking industry and on Wall Street.  Being part of the real estate industry, I have had a front row seat into the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the political posturing and the very real suffering of innocent bystanders.  What I have been left with is an emptiness and sadness in the realization that our country no longer functions for “We the People”.  This year, I decided it was time to be more active.  For that reason, I became a local district leader in the city I call home, White Plains, NY.   Its a small contribution, but if every citizen did the same we would perhaps be able to speak with a louder voice.

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Innovation with a little “i” is booming but we probably need bigger government for big problems…

June 8, 2013

“Yes! There’s an app for that!”  Too bad if its an app for trying to find  single men between the ages of 40 -50 in a 3 block radius when what you really need is an app for finding affordable health insurance after you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.  The dichotomy between the apparent collapse of real deal innovation and the explosion of useless “fluff” apps was brought to vivid life by C.Z. Nnaemeka  in the “The Unexotic Underclass” in the MIT Entrepreneurship Review.  It is a great article worth the read and don’t forget the comment thread.

Truth be told, the author was preaching to the choir as far as I was concerned.  I mentioned this in previous blogs about little “i” innovation outpacing big “I” innovation at an alarming pace.  America has big yawning problems with a dearth of solutions, yet there is app after app, and product after product for the trivial and irrelevant.  We have iPhones, iPhone apps, iPads, and even iShares to help you make a killing in the market.  We have apps to find the perfect restaurant, apps for train schedules.  VC flows freely into these ventures while the purse strings remain tightly closed for the big issues such as climate change, income inequality, or our apparent inability to keep Americas roads and bridges from collapsing.

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