Monthly Archives: January 2011

Age in Relationships

I’m dating a woman a few years older than me. She is beautiful and perfect but in the world of male machismo this is a problem. I’m supposed to be older and wiser, instead I’m the puny non-breadwinner.

To fully understand this dilemma we have to explore sexism, in all it’s glory. Traditional relationships involve a male who is a few years older than the female. This leaves the lady to enjoy the benefits of a higher income and a mature man. The dude gets the younger lady and the ego boost of being wiser.

This totally leaves out gay couples, couples of the same age, and most likely a majority of the country. Which is kind of sad because this is our culture. So instead of gaining all this wisdom and help, it only serves to hamper and confuse us. Simply put, the U.S. culture is not made for me and I think we should amp it up and modernize it.

Particularly because I’m in the relationship of my life and I have no idea what to do. The lady has a few years on me and is at a different stage physically. For kids, her biology says it’s now or never, while I’ve got a few years to dilly-dally. Should I make her wait or pony-up early?

What about money, the ultimate relationship killer. I’m just coming out of my debt years thanks to college, a car, and haphazardly getting a mortgage. I’m doing fine now with all that paid off or turned into equity builders, but it still puts a strain on the relationship.

Studies say that even having debt in a relationship is a big deal. It creates an imbalance that hurts future money decisions.

Top it all off, I’m a few years behind in my career. I have less experience, less income earning years, and less opportunity. Not because of ineptitude but simply less time on target.

So there it is the crux of age in relationships: kids, debt, and income. I could also say maturity but often couples in relationships love each other for their personalities. It’s these other factors – life factors – that get in the way.  Add in a dose of ineffectual culture and nascent sexism and you have a confusing mixture that definitely puts a strain on the ego.

U.S. Population Growth at 9% – Economists Need An Ego Check

Despite the slowest decade of population growth since the Great Depression, the USA remains the world’s fastest-growing industrialized nation and the globe’s third-most populous country at a time when some are actually shrinking.

The United States reached 308.7 million in 2010, up 9.7% since 2000 — a slight slowdown that many experts say was caused by the recession and less immigration.

Even so, U.S. growth is the envy of most developed nations.

USA Today are you kidding me? Sometimes being the odd duck out is great but in this case I’m calling B.S.

Before I get to that it’s interesting to note that we are now up 309 million people, that’s a lot. It represents a burgeoning population way beyond what Yvon Chouinard calls ideal cities. These are places where the population is 250,000 to 350,000, “large enough to have all the culture and amenities of a city and still be governable – like Santa Barbara, Auckland, and Florence”.

I’m tempted to agree with him since I grew up in a place of that size. Sometimes the discussion needs to go beyond monetary policy and focus on quality of life. Taking into account food supply, health factors, and environmental concerns.

It’s an interesting line of thinking but let’s get back to the so-called ‘envy’.

It stands to point out that economic theory on GDP growth is grossly over represented in our cultural consciousness. Just look at our latest recession and tell me where all our economists were on that one. They are notorious for promoting ideologies in the face of massive bubbles and even letting themselves become the politicians, city planners, and business people who know everything. It used to be that economists would caveat and asterisk everything they say, now they will read your palm and tell you how to run your household.

I see the same happening in this article from the USA Today. The topic is population growth and how that affects social services. Somehow they are arguing that our growth is the key to fixing our insolvent social services programs like social security and medicare. Like piling on taxpayers will magically cure decades old problems. Even more vexing they claim other countries are envious of us.

Tell that to my grandpa who lives on social services. There is no envy lost on him. The truth is that our society is maturing (albeit very slowly) into the right mixture of government vs personal. All the Tea Party and Libertarians exist for a reason and I think it is because our government programs are off balance. We don’t need the government telling us how to get married or who to love, but we do need the government keeping prisoners and the insane of the street.

When it comes to the elderly I think we have it all wrong. Pushing them out of our society and into ‘homes’ does a double damage to our society. It costs us money and it hurts our communities. If there is one thing our ailing communities need it is more elderly roaming the blocks, raising children, and talking to neighbors. There is so much that they bring to families and neighborhoods it is hard to undervalue, but with our current social services we lock them away like prisoners.

The goods news is that all those ‘envious’ countries in the article will soon be dealing with this “problem of the elderly”. I bet many will miss the boat and make poor choices (like California letting out prisoners) rather than the right ones (like developing cultural programs to promote elderly care).

In the end, we may find that population growth isn’t at all related to social services. That it is a community topic and should be discussed by family leaders, church leaders, and other local members. At the very least I would hope we can keep the economists performing economic judgments and not letting them determine society’s ills through GDP forecasts.

Post CES Take-away: In Vegas, women are discarded like unwanted Garbage Pail Kid cards

Or at least that’s the image that’s stuck in my mind after leaving Las Vegas for the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Not the cool 3-D displays I saw or the latest breed of electronic vehicles and tablets and it’s not the image of topless women I saw during my first Vegas strip club visit (yes, you read that correctly, I patronized a Vegas strip club – and was surprised at how enlightening an experience it was). No, it’s the image of those guys and gals (almost exclusively Latino) on the Vegas strip handing out cards with naked girls on them for sexual encounters. Or more accurately, the image of those cards scattered all over the ground like party confetti wherever I walked.

Most people who know me would not consider me a prude. I’m pretty open and open-minded about sex. But the image of naked women carelessly strewn all over the ground bothers me. The image of anything so exposed and discarded bothers me. I don’t care how people spend their time in Vegas. I’m not passing moral judgments on individual life choices. You want to gamble, gamble. You want to pay for sex, go for it. You want to cover your balls in peanut butter and let your dog lick it off – those are your balls and your dog, not mine. I don’t take offense to prostitution, stripping or gambling (*although, thanks to Adam’s comment below, I’m not saying I’m a proponent of them – it’s just they invoke larger thoughts that exceed the limits of this individual post). What I do take issue with, or at least question, is the impact of people mindlessly stepping on images of naked women during their visit to a major epicenter of business in the United States. It makes me think of the Broken Windows Theory, where the norm-setting and signaling effects of urban disorder and vandalism promotes additional crime and anti-social behavior. Except instead of broken windows devaluing neighborhoods, the seemingly trivial “babes on a card” being passed out and tossed aside on the Las Vegas strip are devaluing women.

I can only wonder what impact it has on visitors from foreign countries whose only experience of the United States is Las Vegas and the strip. CES had over 140,000 attendees, up 11% from last year’s 126, 000 (even though visitor numbers to Vegas has been on the decline since the recession). The increase is attributed to attendees from foreign countries, most of whom were men. The irony is a lot of the gadgets at CES were geared towards women. But I’d say less than 10% of CES’ attendees were female (maybe 20% tops). It seems like a big mistake on the part of any seller to ostracize and neglect women – they’re a big fucking consumer demographic. Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from automobiles to health care. If consumption is part of the virtuous cycle of production, I want women to be included in that cycle.

So what to do? Am I the only one who’d like to see the sex cards disappear from the strip? Am I the only one who thinks it could have a positive net impact for Las Vegas and its visitors – like when bars started banning smoking. Bar owners were terrified they’d lose patrons and money. But it turns out, most bar go-ers didn’t like the smoke, and smoke-free establishments actually saw a 20+% increase in sales. Maybe a sex-card free strip would actually draw more folks in. Besides, isn’t this 2011? There’s this thing called the internet. Hard copy is, in a word, archaic. Seriously, just bing it.

So I’m petitioning the city of Las Vegas to ban the sex cards. I think the gain would grossly outweigh any perceived loss. Las Vegas will be getting a new mayor – the man who has been running the city for the past 11 1/2 years is saying his farewell. Now seems like the perfect time to makes some changes and possibly make Sin City a little more seductive, a little more alluring and that much more attractive to visit.

If you agree, you can join the cause with me by petitioning @CityOfLasVegas via Act.ly to “Eliminate Sex Cards from the Strip”: http://act.ly/2yf (RT to sign).

Maybe the new leadership might take notice. Maybe the end consumer can actually influence the source. And maybe it’s better to act on Margaret Mead‘s quotes instead of just quoting her.

It’s the little things in life that count.

The Neo-Ottoman Empire and the Solution to Iraq

I’m writing this article from 30,000 feet up and don’t have the ability to dig deeper, but an article has grabbed my attention with it’s vision. It’s about the influence of Turkey in Iraq and how they are the new European powerhouse. When most are focusing on Al-Qaeda, Iran, and the U.S. Military, it seems that the Ottoman Empire is in resurgence.

In terms of economics, Turkey is ideally position to serve up the vast Iraqi oil reserves to the enormous European markets. In the past Turkey was able to exploit their location on the tri-border of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East to such great extents that they formed empires lasting hundreds of years, the last of which was the Ottoman Empire which only crumbled decades ago. If things go well we may be seeing a resurgence of this power and the first sign may be that in 2010 Turkey “carries roughly 25 percent of Iraq’s oil exports…(and) have signed on to the ambitious $11 billion Nabucco gas pipeline project, which may bypass Russia and bring Iraqi gas to Europe.”

Talk about a shift in the balance of power. Out of nowhere Russia can be cut down to size with Iraq’s vast oil reserves. Turkey can once again become the dominant middle-man enjoying vast profits and greatly improving their chances to become more tightly integrated with the European Union, maybe even join.

In reading the article, pulled from the front page of the New York Times, one gets the sense that Turkey understands this all to well and deeper than any westerner can. The key to ‘fixing’ Iraq will not be through battling Iran or building up the military, but through pure economic growth. To start you need to feed the oil beast and ground zero is the vast oil reserves of Basra. The city once dominated by the Ottomans is now in ruins after bloody civil wars and military takeovers. Now it is a Turkish stronghold where all the interviews in the article ring of the Turkish merchants of yore. Brimming with excitement and ideas so irresistible you just have to love it.

For example, the first building project was a marketplace and one of the first fairs they held there was a petroleum conference.

That’s in the south of Iraq – if you move to the north where the border between Turkey and Iraq exists, you find a completely different scene. This region controlled by the Kurds is booming with commercialism. Turkish billboards, TV shows, pop stars, entrepreneurs, and vast exports of all kinds of goods. It’s a whole different kind of hearts and minds campaign resulting in $6 billion of trade in 2010, “almost double what is was in 2008.” It’s a more mature market and one more dominated by the Turks than ever.

To get a true sense of how this is changing Iraq, one would need to be there, feel the vibe of the streets, and talk to ordinary people. A close second would be to look at the political scene. The recent government coalition is thought to be of Turkish influence and one of the few powers pushing for secular coalitions. Their backing of “Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite politician who enjoys the support of the country’s Sunnis” shows just that.

In Baghdad too their presence is felt touching all corners and including the famous Moqtada al-Sadr. This famous anti-American populist prince of the poor craves attention and Turkey responded by inviting all of his lawmakers “to the Turkish capital, Ankara, for training in parliamentary protocol.” Can you imagine a revolutionary anti-American leader sending his people to democracy classes?

If all this wasn’t enough, the Kurds of Turkey and Iraq are settling down into their new economic vitality. As they enjoy the border trade that encompasses their land, the racist blood war with the Turkish government is morphing into a “Kurdish opening.” The powerful warlords of Iraqi Kurdistan no longer talk about seceding from Iraq and the prolonged warfare that would ensue. Funny how prosperity seems to calm things down.

The people of Turkey are everywhere in Iraq from the oil rich south to the strong economy in the north. They are deep into politics and are working the population too. With any luck we will have a neo-Ottoman Empire in the near future, one that could unite the Middle East through economic growth and reform through wealth.

Indeed, coalitions of this kind are the only ones that have ever succeeded in the Middle East.