Sheep

“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
George S. Patton

A “yes man” annoys the crap out of me. Having hundreds of yes man in a congregation is great for a pastor, having thousands of yes man is great for a radio show talking head, having millions of yes man to a president is what we call a nation. Or do we?

During the early Bush years I was a yes man to the president. I remember having arguments with my now wife, back then just a fellow blogger, about how I believed Bush was doing the right thing. I believed that he had more information than I did, therefore he was making better decisions. That bubble quickly burst into a million little pieces like that Oprah book, when during Bush’s second term I started to see that no matter what information he had, what was being done by his administration was wrong. The war opened my eyes, talking to people that were coming back from over there truly painted a different picture. I had supported going there getting the bad guys and getting out… however, dropping a trillion dollars with the hope that it would turn into cheap oil for us was a massive FAIL. Then I started to realize how much politics is actually about ideology and beliefs, much like religion. My view of Bush was shattered because he worshiped the mighty more than his oath to serve the country. It was clear when legislation had turned into the playground of Bush’s “good old boy” as they started raking in dollars like that movie Casino.

A couple of months back I watched the movie “The Smartest Guys in the Room.” If you can stomach documentaries, it is not half bad, but in the end is pretty disappointing. We let the government deregulate everything so that profits could be made and years later we are looking at the result of the push for free market and capitalism. I became aware of what deregulation meant when I did a little research into credit cards some years ago. I am happy that new regulation on credit cards is finally happening and hope that people see the benefit of some regulation.

Recently the whole town hall meeting format seems to have turned into an spectacle. Believe it or not it makes me happy. People should question legislation and look at the facts. While I believe that some of those people are just there to cause havoc, it is making more people become interested in our legislative process. Knowledge is power, and we should all know what our representatives are doing for us. Hopefully people are reading more about the laws that are being passed and not simply being sheep to some organization trying to be disruptive.

When it comes to ideologies I still believe in personal responsability and success through hard work. Socialism and capitalism are both concepts that require people to believe on them for them to get started, but do either of them really work? Calling our current administration socialist its as naive as still wanting a free market after our economy almost tanked with our flavor of capitalism. What is even more amusing is that the government that free market is so against meddling in their kitchen is who bailed out the corporations that were “too big to fail.” I’ve heard over and over that they should have been allowed to collapse in true capitalist fashion, as well as people blaming our president for the whole bail out when it was not even his policy.

My Perspective on GM

*What is written below is purely my point of view, or better yet, my fictional account. I don’t feel like getting sued. GM stands for GoodWingum Motards.

I actually worked on a couple of projects for GM. One is big and secret and I really cannot discuss it. Partly because I was part of developing the process and how it related to other manufacturers later on. The project that I can talk about is one that had to do with looking at one of their many databases and finding out what the reliability of the data was.

I am also a GM customer and have been for my last 3 vehicles which have all been Monte Carlos. I love the car for many reasons, and my only complain is that the position of the sit belt is not adjustable like it is in other cars and it can be annoying at times.

While working with GM I learned a lot. I have worked with statistical analysis of databases quite a bit before. I enjoy finding patterns on numbers and how they relate either back to the business or to people. Projecting trends is something that clicks quite easy in my head once a understand a process.

The project I did for GM was quite straight forward and very successful. We presented our findings and they were very happy. However, the reason behind the project is what kind of baffled me.

I have seen companies make bad decisions throughout my career. Most of the time this happens when the person making the decision is too far removed from what is actually happening or what is being implemented. In my opinion this was the case here. The system that was being installed was moving forward, and what the project that I did prove had nothing to do with the final outcome of the project that was being pushed elsewhere.

Looking at GM’s Renaissance Center on the news is what brought many of the memories. I had to go there for meetings sometimes. I actually remember my first meeting there like it was yesterday, and a picture of the building being my very first mobile picture in the now defunct TextAmerica website.

What amazed me the most about the GM project was how inefficient a company that had so much invested in a company was. Their security was pretty tight, but it made getting data from the a nightmare that would take days just for a single file. What made it even more frustrating was that it was not obtained from GM directly but from another vendor. So it was vendor talking to vendor and then getting approval from someone in GM to make the transaction happen. If the data was wrong… well many layers of bureaucracy had to be wrestled with until the data was finally obtained.

I learned a lot from this project about GM. Even more than the other secret project that we most not speak of now… on that one I got to learn a lot more about how state governments work. That I just refuse to post about completely.

Seeing a company from the inside is interesting, and now that they are filling for bankruptcy it does not surprise me one bit. Even though it was only a portion of what they do and actually not directly related to manufacturing, seeing how inefficient they were was a big red flag for me. It is easy to say now that you would not want a job there, but I knew that even back then.

I still love my GM car, and would probably buy a GM in the future as they restructure because the product to me is pretty good. Working and living in Michigan taught me many things about the automotive industry and its failure to react to change. I guess like anything that gets to big, it also becomes slow. I am eager to see what happens with the company, and hopefully it will eventually become independent and publicly owned. I do know that if they want to survive and flourish tons of changes will have to be made. Maybe in their next iteration, they will actually stop creating more bureaucracy and become more agile in every aspect.

Noodle Tacos with a hint of Curry

One of the positive side effects of the economic crisis is that it lets people take a look around them. More and more people are paying attention to what is going on in the world. All of a sudden what the economies elsewhere are doing is not irrelevant to the common person anymore. No not when foreign companies are the ones buying the remains of our auto industry.

While many common people have been crying foul at globalization, it took the economic down turn for the US to finally stop giving tax breaks to companies that took jobs overseas. Yeap, I said it before, if a job can be performed here in the US, it should stay here. I am an American, and while I was born in Colombia you do not need to tell me to go back to my country. I am quite comfortable watching the world change from here.

The world is far from flat, and globalization is harder to understand than what one book or even research on the subject can really explain. I have a very different perspective on the subject because even though I am not a natural born citizen, I did finish my education and started my career here in the U.S.

So what does this have to do with noodle tacos with a hint of curry?

Recently I had a couple of conversations with older white middle upper class north Americans. They are and have been the ruling demographic here in the U.S. However, they are frightened at the thought that they are slowly becoming the minority.

Being a minority is scary, it is something that is not easy to deal with. Many middle upper class Americans had never even considered that they were a minority in a lot of ways. People in the US seem to not care about the global stage, I don’t get why but I constantly hear “who gives a $#!7 what the world thinks of us?”. Just look at the raw population number and over 50% of the humans alive right now are actually Asian. Whites make up less than 10% of the world population.

Ask any middle class Indian how they feel about globalization and natural resources and they will explain that the Americans and Europeans were early to the global buffet line, but they want in on it too… and there are a lot more of them. China has more English speakers than the U.S. and Latin America’s economies are truly emerging. Just recently I learned that oil exploration down south is being done in a large percentage by China.

Many Asian countries are looking elsewhere in the world, specially Africa, for farmland. I will leave this for another post to flesh out (because it angers me that now the world wants to invest in irrigation and farming technology in Africa, but it is not to feed the hungry but to secure future resources for themselves… I digress).

So here come the “o-shit” factor. In the push for low wages and outsourcing US companies strengthened the economies of both China and India. The Latino population in the U.S. is growing and we are now the largest minority already making whites minorities in areas you would never think of opening a burrito shop.

This makes me happy in many levels. Mainly because it really angers bigoted people that wear the xenophobia under their crisply dry cleaned shirts. Realistic individuals will see that with globalization comes multiculturalism and lots of changes, and while I don’t go as far as believing in a one world government (as my buddy XO talks about) mainly because I believe that humanity is not capable (like my other buddy Emawk eloquently wrote), the world is now becoming a huge melting pot. I am just sitting back and waiting for a tasty meal.

Same Sex Marriage

Sunday, Miss California might have thrown away the chance to become Miss USA. She certainly did not get “fabulous” Perez Hilton’s vote. While I could sit here and talk about the legitimacy of an event that uses Mr. Hilton as a judge, I do think the spectacle raised a good issue that seems to be getting hotter and hotter because now Iowa and Vermont have legalized same sex marriage.

I wrote about this topic a while ago and if anything my belief that we should allow two people to enter this kind of union regardless of sex is even stronger now.

To even enter this discussion I now ask people the following question. Do you believe that being gay is a choice or innate?

The gay people I have talked to have always told me how difficult a live as an openly gay person can be, and that many people would not chose that life. While there has to be exceptions to every rule, for me it is the way that you are born. From what I have read, science tends to back that up also. I have formed this opinion over years and friendships, however the thing that tipped the scale over was that most gay people I have talked to believed were born that way. People like Ted Haggard might believe that those “impulses” is something that can be “cured,” but I think it only leads to pain and deceit.

I believe that fighting to keep people from getting married is a waste of energy. Proclaiming that it should be only between a man and a woman is a pretty weak argument in today’s world. I understand that government sees the potential for children as the basis for the language in marriage law, but I certainly think that more and more people chose not to have children but still enter the covenant of marriage.

I think conservatives should really concentrate on how to keep marriages together before they start telling other people what to do or not to. Divorce to me is a way bigger problem than same sex marriage. The only marriage prevention I would like to see is letting people that are too young or unprepared for the commitment enter into marriage. Educating people before they get into marriage I think would prevent a lot of divorces, maybe even discourage some from even entering into them, but this is a topic for some other day.

Perez Hilton is someone I don’t particularly like and actually think he helps fuel the whole celebrity culture that swallowed what used to be pop culture. However, he does have a point when he says that Miss California should be trying to unite rather than to give her personal opinion when giving the Miss USA stage. Same sex marriage should be legal for many reasons, and we need to start making this a human issue and not a gay issue. Homosexuals are humans and should be allowed the same rights.

Democracy vs Capitalism

In 2005 both Japan and Germany were struggling with this same situation we are in now. Recently a couple of people asked me to talk about the economy and I have been thinking and writing little snippets here and there. I was very aware of the situation in Japan mostly because I get some Japan news when I am reading about anime. I am a little more tuned to Japan than Germany. Politically I really don’t think either did the right thing when it came to their failing economies that started to show signs of trouble way before the U.S. did.

Listening to Obama’s speech last night my mind kept on going back to why is banks giving out credit so necessary for the economy? What about private investment? What about social lending?

Obama seemed to be pretty harsh towards Wall Street, but still believes that banks should survive.

Whether we like it or not, the government will end up having a huge stake in our banking system. Their failure to see the big picture and need to make money rather than look at long term goals made them in my eyes obsolete. I am not sure if the right solution is to keep them alive. I honestly think that our economic system is in need of a total makeover.

When I lived in Colombia I remember that lending was mostly done through credit unions. Credit cards simply did not exist to the extent they did here in the U.S. I learned all about credit here in the United States and frankly the model sucks quite a bit. It makes no sense to me that I cannot get a comparable rate on my savings as I get on my borrowing. That is why I am leaning more and more towards the social lending model these days rather than using a system that all that has done for me is charge me tons of extra fees. Oh yea, I think banks have cost me close to thousands in fees, some of it due to my youth check floating bonanza, but mostly to a mistake in their system a few years back that created a domino effect on my account. It taught me that living paycheck to paycheck was a huge mistake, and even though it took a lot more than that I have finally gotten back to having a savings account with some cushion.

If the banking system is the blood of capitalism, it certainly has leukemia. I look at capitalism and democracy as two sides of a scale, and right now democracy is starting to really tip things to one side. Democracy is supposed to save us from the injustices of capitalism, but for years it did just the opposite. Capitalism had free reign and it got us into this mess. Now a lot of people think that the solution is to let capitalism take its course and let business fail… but at what cost? who will end up losing the most? the rich already got richer, the poor are the ones unemployed and without millions in bonuses in the bank. Sure the super rich might have lost a lot in the stock market, but when the money was funneled out of wall street it was CEOs that were getting millions in bonuses. When one of them gets fired, they still have their financial future assured. Those people will still be able to send their kids to college and will never come close to starving. Their biggest sacrifice might be that they have to travel coach rather than on their private plane now.

I am very watchful of what is happening now, and still believe in democracy, capitalism truly not as much as I used to. I always go back to the thought that a hungry worker is not a good worker. I hope that what Obama says last night is going to happen and more jobs are going to be created because of the stimulus package. However, I think as a country we have a responsibility, and it is not to spend money, but to spend money wisely in the coming years.