Coping: The Missing American Dream

It’s a familiar topic around here, but worth noting this morning that a new poll which is available from CNN-Money says 59% of persons polled believe the American Dream is unachievable.

What’s worse is that as you read down into the detail level, you’ll find that the number of folks who don’t think their children will be “better off” than their parents is nearly 2/3rd’s – 63%.

All of which circles back to a very interesting problem:  What is the core reason that we get up and go to work in the morning – or do anything else, for that matter?

Huge socioeconomic success seems to follow articulation of a great dream. 

From the depths of the Great Depression, America organized around a dream of “saving Europe” and “beating the Hun” and that was followed with “beating the Japanese.”

After World War II, we got into the dream about containing communism and that helped the US go (more or less) united into Korea, where we’ve been ever since.

Then there was the dream to “put a man on the moon within 10 years” which was done, although there are plenty of scoffers who argue that it was all a conspiracy and show and that there are simply too many photographic hints that it was at least partial staged.

Nevertheless, staged or otherwise, we had a dream – and did something about it.

Other dreams (such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”) have been realized as well.

But there’s that old “What have you done for me lately?” side of things.

A fine question to be asked if you know anyone on a school board or who’s a teacher, is to ask them “What is the American Dream” that is being told and sold to the young people of America today?

The mood of the country may hinge on such things, since there’s an obvious pile of potential dreams to pick from.

With the huge increase in the levels of income disparity. finding a better means of income distribution might be a candidate.

Or, given the paucity of jobs, we might want to work on developing a dream to deal with the arrival of robotics which will decimate the workforce in coming years.

As I sit hear thinking about it this morning, there aren’t a lot of worthwhile dreams that come to mind.  But perhaps you’d be so kind as to share whatever you consider a worthy dream for America.

Something better than “What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar” would be nice, and something  that doesn’t involve adding more divisions between us as people.

It’s be nice if it was something the whole planet could buy into, as well.  And no, going to Mars doesn’t cut it for me personally, but maybe there has been enough groundwork laid around the idea of Martians, that it is an idea whose time has come.

Or not.

We’re All Public Figures…or Are We?

There is something of a gulf in this country which I’m starting to notice:  The country is dividing among those who believe in the right to privacy and those who see that with the arrival of network computers and the lack of public training on how they strip away most traditional (pre computer) privacy notions, we are becoming an ever more transparent society.

I recently whined about the NSA’s plans to use Facebook information as feed stock for its massive facial recognition program. 

And responding to this, in pops an email from reader Mark out in the Bay Area, who says (in so many words) what’s the big deal?


I don’t really have a problem with government security agencies having a picture of my face, fingerprints, SS#, body type, shoe size…whatever. What are they going to do with it? I have nothing to hide…Actually, me and millions of others have chosen to have our  faces plastered on as many sites as possible.

My entire present day life is there for anyone to look at on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, my public web site, business cards etc., etc. I want people to recognize me. It is part of my personal business model. 

However, for some people, it’s never OK until it’s OK. That is, until they have a theft, assault, fraud,  or Heaven Forbid a kidnapping or worse. Then, we all want our local authorities to mimic the Person Of Interest scenario and hunt those bastards down by any means possible. When I had my car broken into recently and my tablet stolen, I was right there with the police viewing the security cameras in our Club parking lot watching how it all happened…hoping that the hooded hoodlum would show his face just long enough for the police to identify him.

When it comes to Government funded security, there just are too many conspiracy theories out there. Besides, it’s not as if this is all new. Authorities have had each and everyone of our pictures for decades in the form of Drivers licenses….and I applaud the way that has kept us a bit safer in terms of check fraud, (checking ID to ensure it’s you writing the check…back in the day when checks mattered), keeping minors, for the most part,  from buying liquor, and proof of ID anywhere else.

It was an analogue way of doing things, we complied and never really gave it much thought… and now that we are more digital or virtual about it…changing with the times…upgrading the system…analogous to switching from VHS to streaming video and we get all freaked out about it. Do they have more information about me? YES!…Do I care? NO! Hell, if they want all of my buying habits, income and expenses, I will let them do my taxes for me too. I hate that anyway.

And let’s talk taxes while we are at it. As I sat in Highway 101 traffic the other day, I was listening to some libertarian wacko on the radio…Then, I I looked up at the sky and saw planes lined up to land at SFO, I scanned my surroundings and looked at all of the infrastructure around me too,. Sound walls, barriers, asphalt, signs, lights, etc…and felt gratitude that there was a government providing this to us. I began to think that my taxes are a way of paying it forward to provide services for everyone. What is the alternative?

If the libertarians got their way, could you imagine how much airline tickets would cost if the entire air transportation industry was privatized? Or, for that matter how safe would it be to fly at all, if corporate shareholders were trying to squeeze out a profit by cutting back on let’s say,  air traffic controller or TSA services?

Without government intervention and investment, airline gate rent would skyrocket to include and subsidize a bigger portion of investor expenses. That would affect the price of an airline ticket to you and me to include the high cost of airport real estate and the billions of infrastructure surrounding it, air traffic control, baggage services, ticket services, security, etc. While that is done now, it is under the strict guidelines and rules of the FAA…which would probably not exist in a libertarians world. A for profit airport would have it’s own guidelines tied to shareholder interests. “OK Mr. Ure, the price of a ticket to fly to see your kids in Seattle will be $4,000 a piece for you and your wife….How would you be paying for that sir?”

If roads were privatized, how much would it cost for me to drive on any road? Would local police or fireman want your credit card # before they investigated a crime or put out a fire if they were for profit? Would there be parks? Breathable air? Drinkable water? Beautiful and zoned urban developments like the boulevards of Paris or my own favorite…The Embarcadero in San Francisco? For those that can afford it…probably…For those that couldn’t? They would be screwed.

No! My guess, our world would look Dystopian…Communities right out of the Hunger Games.

So yes…today, I had an extra appreciation and gratitude for paying taxes. It’s my way of paying it forward to society, so that we all…rich and poor, sick and healthy… can benefit equally. I feel much better just thinking about it.

The point of my rant is that in the end…we will all pay the Man anyway. I, personally would rather pay my government that has a two party system to go back and forth and try to come up with a  viable solution that, in theory benefits all.

All of which gets me to an interesting ponder, though it takes a moment to explain.

I think back to when I was young and I remember that a lot of the older people I was around (grandparent and uncles and such) seemed to have an “air” about them, for lack of a better term, that classified them as “old” or belonging to the past generation and its mindset.

As I was coming up through my financially formative years, these attitudes were especially clear:  The relatives who had lived through the Great Depression had core values that didn’t involve borrowing money or taking out a big mortgage.  They were the real “old school” who didn’t borrow, who kept money in savings accounts, and even remembers who the U.S.O. and American Legion were in their heyday.

The ponder, therefore, has to do with aging:  Could is be that the “notions of privacy” are now undergoing the same radical shift that happened between, say, 1940 and 1980 to the notion of borrowing?

Or, to put it another way, is it a characteristic of youth to rapidly adopt the new passing paradigm (money management for one generation, privacy for another) and for the “old” to self-sort themselves by holding on to values that the balance of society is quickly moving past.

Even more intriguing is the extension of this question into:  Did an aversion to borrowing money (passed on from the generation before me) limit my future success because it kept me from “rolling with” the Debt Society?  I would have bought a home with a large note much earlier, if I’d seen it earlier.

And, by the same token, is holding on to the antiquated notion of privacy when Google is taking pictures from the street out front of our homes and we miss that anything put on Facebook is essentially “in the public record” – is hanging on to that old-time thinking going to make me appear as an “oldster or geezer” to the new generations to come?

Oh, my head hurts at the thought.  But here’s one for you that is as serious as a heart attack:

B.N.E. to Replace B.C.E.

The magnitude of the social changes afoot now due to the arrival of the networked computer argues that future historians will have to rethink and update their timeline benchmarks.

The evidence seems to be piling up that “Before the Common Era” will soon be replace with “Before Networked Computers.”

The good news is that there are enough companies with skin in the computer and network game that any, or all, of them will argue for one date or another and it could well be hundreds if not a thousand years into the future before the a date is settled upon.  

The issue that far off, of course, is whether the human perception of time will matter.  Being predicated, as it is, on any humans being left. 

The machines don’t need us, you know…and when it comes to being kept around as “pets” for higher (machine) intelligences, we are a very, very messy species that’s barely past house-broke.  And some number of humans aren’t even that far.

Flatlanders Deluxe

Note from reader Keith:

I came across Flatland a few years ago & found it a beautiful read in both substance & its 1884 language & style

For your readers:  You can download Flatland at a number of sites.  is a good one & I’d suggest you download the pdf which has  damaged title pages which starts to transport you back in time ……………

And speaking of time, more tomorrow…

Write when you break-even