What Actually Happened in 2011 when Standard and Poor’s downgraded USA's credit rating from “AAA” to “AA+?

When S&P’s downgraded the U.S. the fallout should have been higher yields, in other words, all the bond investors in theory should have demanded that Uncle Sam pay more interest in exchange for a bet on the U.S. of A. That didn’t happen.

What happened was the opposite. Investors panicked when the U.S. downgrade occurred. Once the panic began, investors made the proverbial “flight to safety” which for now still happens to be U.S. treasuries.

Think about it. People lost confidence in the solvency of the U.S. A., they panicked and made some knee-jerk reactions, driving the price up (and the yield crashing down to about 2%) of the very thing they were worried was going to go down.

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Silence is Consent?

In Western business culture is “silence is consent?”

I think it is. For example, if you don’t tell the VP of Marketing that his campaign is deeply problematic in the meeting, well, aren't you then automatically a supporter of his campaign? Defaults matter in more rules-based Western business manners. No protest at that particular time, no hands raised within that window means you are going with whatever is being proposed and you have little to no rights to conduct a future review.

In Chinese business culture, I don't think silence is consent. I think silence is a degree of acquiescence, but definitely not consent. A lot happens in side meetings and in pre-meetings, so much so that this particular meeting may just be a formality. Silence in that meeting, or any meeting never has the finality that it does in a Western context. It is not as rules-based. Therefore, with future ebbs and flows in the balance of power amongst all stakeholders, the likelihood of a review or a reopening and reconsideration of the past circumstances of the "silence" persists and can't really be eliminated.

Be the spider: Walk on Water

TENSION of course can lead to a mighty snap, it can be all too much. That's why tension has to be managed.

A divided society, in the truest sense, is beyond tension- appeals to reason or moderation don’t work in those cases.

The very middle class that is the cornerstone of developed economies’ tax base, the very electorate and spine of 1st World civil society is under pressure. A middle class that is distinguished from the lower class by reaping few or no social benefits and entitlements, but is distinct from the wealthy in that it may be education-rich but relatively asset poor, where income is primarily from wages and not from asset appreciation and capital gains, is really feeling the crunch these days.

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Active Versus Passive

In High School in California I was always told to use the active voice. Somebody "did something," "Pedro smacked Juan," "the glass fell from the rooftop." It wasn't that the baby was eaten by a dingo... no, no... "the dingo ate my baby."  

 This is how headlines are written MUCHO active voice

This is how headlines are written MUCHO active voice

But the Chinese way is different.

See below: literally "In Ngau Tau Kok on Chun Wah Road an Old Fella Was Struck Dead by a Minibus."

If I sound cold and callous in using these tragic traffic accidents as grammatical showcases, I don't mean to. I just want to use a stark example of how people approach ideas differently. The constant here is grief coupled with shock coupled with voyeurism, there is a Chinese-Western commonality there. But in terms of how those ideas are thought of and conveyed, I think there are some subtle cultural differences.

And those bones of contention, the backstreets where Chinese and Western disagree, well, that's where there's tension, and that's where there is an enormous blue sky of untapped cultural space to explore. 

That's where I want to be. Ask me questions. Tell me a story. Let's explore it together.

Commoditization

I have been to no fewer than five Cirque events and can report that they are not just bold, but memorable; I can actually recall color schemes, particular villainous costumes, and riffs from the live music from each and every Cirque I have been to. The theme song from Alegría is hard-wired into me, for better or worse.

Cirque du Soleil is not just spectacular from an entertainment point of view.

Software that isn’t necessarily just designed to aid humans, but also to strip us of bargaining power, is a reality.

The future is a dichotomy between those like A-list movie actors who can exert genuine bargaining power over the producers, and those like B-list and below actors who are replaceable. And the line between them is razor thin.

At that very moment you are like the Cirque performer who says, “phew, well, at least I don’t have to manage a stinkin’ twitter account” or a gym trainer who says, well “that client was a pain, in a way I’m glad my hour with her is done and someone else’ll tell her she ain’t gonna lose that ‘babyfat’ on treadmill setting ‘2’.” It is a small setback toward commoditization. Especially in our photoshop world, beauty is a commodity. The fundamental point is that beauty is easy to replace, and “beauty talk” is not harmless. If you sip that sake you make it harder for others to see you for what is not easily replaceable, namely a distinctive mind.

In a similar vein there are many "beautiful linguists" out there. I.e. those who make it a point to show you how brilliant their language skills are. “I have great command of the Chinese language, unaccented by the way, and I have this on my resume, and I have all these friends.”

But I think you lose when you play the “look at how great my Chinese is game.”

By uttering how good your Chinese is you have lost the game before you can end the sentence. First, because learning the underlying values and culture is more important than mere language. If you learn language as a Mormon missionary does you will grasp quickly grammar and syntax. You may build an edifice of a vocabulary. And a good linguist does. Secondly, no Chinese person will ever tell you their skill is “fluent” or “great,” even “good” comes out waffled. This is because of opacity, of inclinations toward the group- in that deference toward others comes into play, and certainly the unknowable presence of seniority in the group (i.e. wealth, legacy, community service, academic titles, all these could imply higher seniority but are not always knowable). 

Just as Marc Faber said the current and future lingua franca of the world is "bad English," we face an accelerating and inevitable environment of commodization. On a strict economic calculation the Queen's English may even be a liability. All the movers and shakers of the developing world speak bad English. Who cares that you can outdo people over a threshold where statistics aren't counted, where no one cares. On an absolute basis you may have a point, yes your Chinese is good, and you deserve credit for your individual merit. But what about on a relative basis? How good is it really? Basking in the spotlight about what you may think are rare skills will continue to be shakier and shakier for three reasons: 1) too many people in aggregate hungry to match and then exceed you; 2) they are making higher percentage gains on you when you rest on your laurels; 3) when there is saturation people will eventually just agree to some normalized equilibrium of fluency, and any glory that you have for achieving a very high, absolute level of competency (above the equilibrium), well, will be "wasted," at least in economic and practical terms. 

The work that you do, the job that you have, the vocation you pursued, these used to be fundamental aspects of one's identity--but not anymore. Commodization means these markers of identity will be stripped from people; in other words the welder has to be "Bob," he will have to continue to go deeper inside who he is to find a secure anchor for his identity. I reckon that the first step to combat commoditization is sincerity, which is itself, and by definition unscalable. Maybe Bob should start there. Maybe this tension between commodization and sincerity is something he should get ahead of. 

 

 

Tension is a Good Thing? No!

Tension is entrusting your startup employees with free time and space where they are not under constant surveillance, nor constant pressure to respond immediately to every jittery email. It is giving them the room and freedom to explore and come up with new ideas, positive in the possibility that it will create opportunities for them to stumble onto new things. As effective founders will always tell you, “The door is there, you are welcome to leave.” They have the courage to corral every emotional resource to focus on the prize. Ineffective founders sequester you, they monitor you, they expect you to be effective whilst on a short leash.

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Identity is Fluid, Yes. But Amidst a Broken Multicultural Dream Only Fluid-ish

All it took was one manslaughter case and all hell has broken lose in the "Asian-American community."

What I think is really going on here is Chinese, no matter where, I'm convinced are programmed to think of themselves as rarefied and singular even. To think of yourself as Chinese is to think of yourself as distinct. The "younger, often non-Chinese Asian Americans" as Jenn Fang describes them, seem to imagine a "fellow suffering" with other minorities, namely Blacks and Latinos. The starkest dividing line--the dividing principle, if you will, between these "younger, often non-Chinese Asian Americans" and the more Chinese-identifying American citizens/residents who have come to the defense of Peter Liang can be summed up rather neatly:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. (MLK Jr.)

This quotation is the DMZ. You are either on-side. Or you are off-side.

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Horizontal or Vertical? More Lens to Understand Being Mixed

Which collection of stuff would you rather have: the first is broad, while the other is concentrated?

These are the two basic directions one can have in collecting anything. The items don’t have to be expensive; they don’t have to be particularly rare. The same question dawns upon every single collector: do I go wide or deep?

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Virtues vs. Values

Virtues are additive.

That is, you can take ideals like patience, charity, chastity, temperance, honesty and pile them atop each other. Having one doesn't depreciate the other.

We assume they are intrinsically good, and as far as virtues are concerned there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

Values, on the other hand, you can’t just pile on.

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Haitian Bloodbath: Instructive for Being Mixed Today?

"In the extreme case of Haiti, mixed people were hard up against black emancipation, ready to work with the colonial government to extend the fruits of the French Revolution to their “mezzanine” class. On the other hand, some of them were shoulder-to-shoulder with blacks, on the frontlines of the first-ever successful slave rebellion. Of the latter, there were characters like Candi, the “bloodthirsty mulatto,” who loved nothing more than to “pull out the eyes of the Whites with a corkscrew."

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