Count to a Trillion? Impossible!

Some numbers for thought, if we can think that far.

The United States National Debt Clock as of August 20th 2008 is $9,610,188,550,946.94. The estimated population of our country is 304,572,762 so the per person share of this debt is $31,553.01 and our National Debt continues to increase an average of $1.85 billion a day.

For most of us it’s difficult to fathom what a trillion dollars really is.

Sure it’s a million millions, or a thousand billions, but beyond that it is hard to understand what a trillion is except to say that’s a lot of money.

If we look at it another way the understanding of the amount becomes mind boggling.

If someone started counting seconds, like one…two….three, the moment that Jesus Christ was born that person would be up to just over sixty five billion seconds now.

That is six point five percent of trillion.

It takes thirty one thousand seven hundred years to count to a trillion seconds.

That is three hundred and seventeen centuries and we are only in the very beginning of the 21st century. Somebody, maybe Congress, ought to count a lot faster for as of today we are just over 9 and a half trillion dollars in debt.

Uncle Sam To The Rescue

Be worried when you call for help and the Government comes to the rescue. The people of New Orleans understand that better than most. The bureaucracy always bungles good intent and they do so because “the bureaucracy” by its very nature lacks compassion, empathy and a singular leadership.

Long before the Hurricane Katrina rescue and that debacle, our government tried to come to the rescue of the native people of the Aleutian Islands, the Aleuts.

The Aleutians are a thousand mile long string of ragged islands that sit atop a submerged ridge that stretches from Alaska to Russia.

The Aleuts were nothing more than simple folk who enjoyed plain living harvesting seal fur. In June of 1942, bombs fell on some of the small Aleut villages. The war with the Japanese had reached these unprotected islands and Washington was worried.

American troops rushed to the rescue. Government officials ordered the Aleuts out. Their homes became barracks as villagers were taken to relocation camps on the Alaskan coast. The rescue wasn’t a rescue at all. The Aleuts were no better off than Japanese-Americans locked up as security risks.

Some villagers were put in abandoned canneries, some were locked up in a gutted gold mine. Visiting doctors said the Aleuts were living like POW’s. Deaths increased by 300 percent.

Bitter fighting finally defeated the Japanese, but the Aleut exile had lasted nearly three years and when they returned to their villages, nothing was the same. Their boats had long since rotted and sunk. Their possessions were gone, even their religious icons were stolen.

There was a government settlement. Ten-thousand dollars for all claims, about 12 dollars a person. Congress periodically looked into the debacle, trying to find out what went wrong when the government went to the rescue. What Congress ought to look at is the meager settlement to the innocent citizens of the Aleutians.

Conflicts: Then and Now

The beginning of the Russian/Georgia conflict of 2008 reminds me of the Falklands Conflict in 1982

Back then there was a 39 year old scrap dealer by the name of Constantine Davidoff, an Argentinean, who wishes today he could take back an innocent action.

Davidoff heard about three abandoned whaling stations on the British owned Georgia islands. It was a chance to make some salvage money with scrap parts. In December of 81, Davidoff, and seven crewmen, got permission from the British to inspect the stations. In March he started salvage operations. His Argentinian salvage men raised a blue and white Argentine flag over the salvage operations.

The flag was spotted by a group of British researchers camped about 5 miles away. They got their British dander up about an Argentinian flag flying on British territory and got on their radio and called London.

Word spread and in the British Falkland Islands 800 miles to the west, a group of patriotic islanders broke into the Argentinean National Airlines office in Port Stanley, put up the British flag and wrote, on the wall ‘”Tit for tat”.

More words were exchanged. Argentina complained. The British Government protested and said that the Davidoff crew landed illegally. They didn’t, but distance and time and inter-department bureaucracy, didn’t get permits to the right people at the right time.

Argentina said the Davidoff Salvage crew had a right to be there. Britain responded by sending in an Ice Patrol Boat. Argentina then sent a navy ship to protect the crew from forcible removal. More meetings were held between the British and Argentina. Words became angry. Ownership rights were stated and demanded and days later the Argentinians invaded and the Falkland’s war began. You know the rest.

Something different happened in Georgia, but the result is the same. Georgia has always wanted to regain control of South Ossetia. South Ossetia does not want to be part of Georgia, they are happy being aligned with Russia as it was when they were part of the old Soviet Union.

The fighting apparently began when some South Ossetia militiamen fired across the border at Georgian troops. This escalated to a Georgian invasion, and then Russia sent in reinforcements to expel the Georgian troops; fighting continued and people on both sides died. The super-powers got involved, exchanged words, demands, edicts and threats and here we go again.

Ill-thought out, if not stupid actions lead to armed conflict and then ego centered certainties amplified old and new emotions into a global pissing match and people died. You’d think that humankind would have learned that lesson by now on the graves of the innocent.

Leadership and Courtesy

Most leaders, managers, bosses do not intend to be inconsiderate. They are often removed, protected, and uninformed about the potential effect of their decisions.

A case in point came a number of years ago when President Clinton visited California. Before the President left Los Angeles he had a top hair stylist come on board Air Force One to cut his hair. The problem was not the haircut, but the fact it was done on the presidential plane parked at LAX. Two heavily used runways had to be closed, at a busy time, because anywhere the President is, a protective security zone must be established.

I don’t know how many travelers missed their connections because of the hour long haircut, or how much revenue was lost by the airlines through delays, but it must have been sizable.

The message then is courtesy. Not only from the top, but from those who guide and inform to the top. The misuse of power, however innocent, can only continue when those who serve the top don’t speak up out of fear of telling the boss he or she is wrong.