This was my second Colombian Christmas in the past four years. This time around I am a bit more up on Colombian history, culture and hopefully a little better even in Spanish language. This trip has given me more opportunity to explore Bogota, my wife’s home city, getting more acclimated to its very nice mass transit system, learning the various neighborhoods and sectors of this city of around 10 Million inhabitants. I have even been able to drive around the city a bit the last couple days and find it not that difficult to get around. Road and highway signs are pretty abundant and being surrounded by mountains on most sides, I find it easy to maintain perspective of where I am in Bogota.
After sharing some observations with friends today via email, I decided a few of my comments might be of interest to those who read this blog. Bogota is a unique blend of 400+ year old Colonial architecture, some Victorian European influences along with plenty of modern and functional edifices. The country’s demographics heavily lean to the youth and there is a vibrant upbeat energy as most of these 48 Million plus people strive to redefine their country against all the negative perception these decades of civil war and drug reputation has stuck them with. It continues to amaze me how powerful marketing and news media influences are in covering up or limiting the truth about whole countries such as Colombia. It is sad how many people in the world are afraid of visiting or doing business in Colombia because of these perceptions. Sure, there are evil forces lurking in various corners of this and other Latin countries, but I would argue they are no different than the cultural wars and barriers we are seeing growing more and more intense in first world Western countries. The past 5-10 years has seen scores of murders, fire-bombings and street riots between jihadist oriented Muslims and their host countries such as Great Britain, Holland, France and elsewhere. There have been numerous arrests of Muslim Americans within and outside the borders of the USA. There are hundreds of political and war prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere based on my home country’s global war against Muslim extremists. Mexico is actually the most dangerous drug-conflicted country in Latin America the past few years. The United States is the most drug addicted country and consumer in the world. Yet…few people hesitate to travel to the USA, Mexico or Europe on holiday or to do business in these countries. When you tell most people in those countries you are traveling or doing business in Colombia, you get either strange looks or exhortations to be very careful. Some people think you must be a lunatic to come here. It’s really too bad there is so much of that perception.
I think there is a better chance to resolve the civil unrests here in Colombia than there is in settling the cultural differences in the USA and European countries between Islam, Jewish and Christian influences or the various racial barriers. It seems to me the differences between rich and poor are easier to resolve than between religions and ethnicity. One cannot blame a relatively poor country like Colombia in the past for supplying the insatiable thirst in the first world for cocaine and other drugs. I cannot help but wonder if all the billions wasted on the failing war on “illicit” drug production and marketing were spent on more productive and peaceful pursuits or even educating Americans on the effects of their addictions if there wouldn’t be more to show for that investment besides the growing number of jail cells and court dockets full of users and suppliers alike. If the world was allowed the freedom to privately use whatever drugs they wanted for recreation or escape…and governments were allowed to regulate, tax and ensure qualities of those substances…I believe strongly there would be less criminal elements and black markets around these industries…and more revenue would be available to solve the social ills of poverty, addictions and unemployment. We would also have more money to positively invest in renewable energy, cleaner water and agricultural production of all kinds. Much of our world’s major problems in these areas are not because we don’t have resources to solve them, but we are focused on the wrong issues, efforts and wasted ambitions. As long as there is a demand, there will always be a supply. I digress a little, but all this sheds a tremendous light on the real problems in Colombia where the government has joined forces and happily accepted the financial and military support of the USA towards supposedly controlling the drug flow to mixed results and affect. I doubt we accomplished anything regarding the supply of illicit drugs accept for maybe redistributing from whence it enters the market.
So, in essence the Colombians have historically bore the brunt of the worlds hypocritical “political correctness” on the drug issue. I have a copy of last year’s UN report on worldwide drug production and usage and have previously written and linked to that report HERE. The reality is that Colombia is now a ways down the food chain both in supply and users of illegal drugs. Meanwhile, the facts are that Colombia is the 2nd or 3rd largest economy behind Brazil in South America…depending on which report you read or believe. The facts are that “In spite of the difficulties presented by serious internal armed conflict, Colombia's economy grew steadily in the latter part of the twentieth century, with gross domestic product (GDP) increasing at an average rate of over 4% per year between 1970 and 1998. The country suffered a recession in 1999 (the first full year of negative growth since the Great Depression), and the recovery from that recession was long and painful. However, in recent years growth has been impressive, reaching 8.2% in 2007, one of the highest rates of growth in Latin America. Meanwhile the Colombian stock exchange climbed from 1,000 points at its creation in July 2001 to over 7,300 points by November 2008.”
So…for those who ignore Colombia as a travel or business destination are seriously missing out on one of the most vibrant markets and cultures in the region. There is a large Spanish/European side to this culture which has contributed to its modernity and balanced exploration of its many natural resources. Here is a broad, self sufficient country with balanced industries from manufacturing to financial services. While they have almost by necessity been a bit isolated and protectionist in business affairs internationally…it is amazing to see what they have accomplished even while being somewhat rejected by the international business and government communities.
I continue to believe that the USA and Canada’s recent reticence to ratify trade agreements with Colombia is ludicrous…and opens the door for other big trading partners such as China, Taiwan and Japan to fill the gap and take advantage of the rich resources this country offers. It is especially puzzling since the USA doesn’t flinch one bit from sending billions of dollars every year in addition to significant military resources to fight the “drug war”. How can we be so hypocritical?
It is truly a good Christmas in Bogota, and we continue to work towards participating in the growth of this significant and friendly country in Latin America.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Bibi and I are "elfing" around Bogota this Christmas season with family and friends...but we did find time to prepare this Christmas video for you all. We hope you enjoy it and while it might be a little humorous...we sincerely send to each of you our best wishes for peace and prosperity at this holiday season.
Merry Christmas to all...
Ed & Bibiana
Bibi y yo estamos "elfing" en Bogota en este tiempo navideno con familia y amigos...pero preparamos este video navideno para todos ustedes. Que aprovechen este y aunque esta con humor, mandamos sincerimente a ustedes nuestros mejor deseo para paz y prosperidad en este tiempo navideno.
Feliz Navidad a todos...
Ed & Bibiana
Monday, December 14, 2009
As I approach another birthday this Wednesday, it brings to mind a few birthday thoughts...both positive and negative.
A few of the positive ones would be:
Whew...made it through another year in relatively good health with life and limbs intact...
Its nice to have friends and family who want to do something for or with you at least once a year...
Hopefully I have a few more insights from this past year's experiences and reading accomplishments to help me keep piecing it all together...
You're only as old as you feel or the girl you sleep with...in those respects...doin GOOD...
BUT then a few negative thoughts lurk into the forefront as well:
I am LOOKING older this year and too many people are guessing my age and calling me "sir"...
Where did these past 50+ years go? I want to start over...
Hmmm...what about those retirement funds...
Being on the backside of an average lifespan, I don't have time for this _ _ _ _ !
It is nice to think as you get older that you have learned a few things and have more experience to fall back on. Hopefully you won't repeat any of your significant mistakes or errors in judgment. Yet, you also find people calling you "over qualified" or not wanting to hire you because you may be too opinionated or stuck in your ways...and you suddenly realize that yes, you are getting a bit more opinionated and locked into your own manner and style. You're not much of a "team player" and you don't really care about flexing with public opinion or new styles.
You sleep less and dream more. Hopefully you are still DOING some of the things you are dreaming about...but reality is some of those dreams just need to be filed away to "nice idea but not likely".
And you start losing relatives and friends who meant a lot to you to the "dark angel"...and each time that happens it reminds you of your own mortality. You start blessing each new day more..and cursing each interruption to that day more as well.
You also find yourself more nostalgic and wondering what some of your old friends and family you haven't seen in years are doing...what became of them? Some of them have even managed to pass away without your knowing. How rude (of you or them).
So now I have a few more value judgments to make. Every decision going forward is more and more crucial because I have less time to recover or make up for mistakes. I'm a die hard risk taker...but I owe it to myself and my partner to store up for that potentially long winter of diminishing returns.
Its also confusing to decide whether I should stop and smell the roses more, or run as fast and as far as I can in pursuit of all the dreams that have as yet eluded me but still drive me. I don't know...is it better to flame out, or coast out to the great beyond?
Ah...so many thoughts and decisions thrust upon me just because its my birthday and everyone is measuring things more than I am. At least I will be spending it doing what I love...making music...and probably drinking a few more tequilas than usual...while I still can.
Friday, December 11, 2009
This video sent to me by a friend today "struck home", probably more so because of how I relate to the situation. Having studied classical music for almost 10 years as a child and devoting a number of my earliest years to the "business of music" touring full time on the road as a musician in my 20s...I can relate to the challenge of reaching the average person with the art of music. Even now 30 years later I find myself amazed at how clueless and non tuned-in the average human is to real art, whether it be musical or visual.
Our lives have been overrun so much by the push for the almighty dollar and acceptance in the eyes of society around us...most of us have no awareness of all there is around us to absorb and experience from a spiritual or emotional sense. More and more we appear as robots, guided by what is programmed into us by the mass media and the immediate social influences around us. Individuality is a dying art as most humans apply every waking moment to "fitting in" or measuring up to the expectations of external forces. How can anyone truly be open to their senses and core humanity with all this flak bouncing off our brains like errant electrons around a nucleus?
One thing living in a 3rd world country will do if you are in touch with where you are is make you appreciate the potential simplicity of life...remembering the importance of taking time to "smell the roses" or "hear the music". I was quite encouraged this week as I played with my band here in Panama at a popular place I call my neighborhood "hangout". Many of the people in the crowd were people I have known for a year or more but had not been aware of my music background. It was interesting to observe the reactions of some. Some of the people I knew seemed actually quite uncomfortable to see me in the role of performer/musician. I find that many people are uncomfortable if you don't fit the stereotypes or confinements of the box they had you pegged for. And if you are trying to convey a song or meaning of a piece of art on them...there is this look of a "deer peering into the headlights". They really want to see and understand...but their inability to understand completely makes them nervous and in many cases they want to hustle out of there...much like many of the people in the above video scurried away from the performance of a world renown violinist.
On the other hand, I am always gratified when I see someone react to a song, especially if it is one they are hearing for the first time. When they stop in their tracks or in mid conversation at their table...it is one of those "ah hah" moments that to me is more worthwhile than what pittance of payment most artists gain. Its the moment when someone tunes into the "universal language" of music. And when couples or even individuals get out of their seats and dance to the music no matter that there is no dance floor or pressure to do so...well, that is another truly human connection moment...both for them and the performer.
I encourage all of us to spend more time in our short lives stopping to "hear the music" or observe the art...even if it is the art of nature around us. I believe it can add years to our lifespans...or at least quality to the relatively few years we have left to live.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
President Obama has just announced he is planning to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, global climate change as reported by the UN report is a farce and there are two versions of a National Healthcare plan running through congress right now that could continue the bankruptcy of the USA...but the most coverage time given by the media the past two days has been speculative reports on Tiger Wood's minor car accident. The media vampires are out in full force...and they have quite succeeded in bringing down another "American hero".
The story for me now is about the media's vicious frenzy regarding Tiger's supposed domestic conflicts at home based on reported liaisons with not just one, but as of today THREE extramarital affairs or trysts. I don't know if it is just me thinking this, but I find the media treatment as just the latest example of how sick our society and its media has become. Yep...my last blog was about the lack of media coverage on "Climategate"...and now they just prove my case further by giving 30 seconds coverage of these significant global issues followed by 20 minutes of "Tigergate". I can imagine hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent to hunt down any attractive, young woman that has come within 6 feet of Tiger in the past 3 years. Would that the media spent as much resource getting to the bottom of "Climategate", but apparently the sex lives of our star athletes is much more "newsworthy" and in the public interest.
This is just another sick day in our universe. For me it has nothing to do with Tiger, whether he has been faithful or not to his marriage, and for sure it has not been about pursuing the well-being either physically or mentally of the man. Tiger has become the new poster child of the highest brought down to the lowest. It is as if the media and all of us who participate in it are salivating at the thought that this whiz kid golf wonder might have some human tendencies towards pursuits of the flesh. The modern day media has revealed everything from Clinton's blow-jobs in the oval office, Jimmy Swaggert, the evangelist with a weakness for prostitutes, to David Lettermen's apparent penchant for sexcapades at his CBS offices. But that is apparently not enough, or at least those ratings have worn off to the point where Tiger's dalliances come at a perfect time in the seasons ratings wars. Somehow all of his accomplishments, his never to be matched golfing records, his various charities are all of no interest or mention...because we have discovered that the man may have some flaws and not deserving of his pedestal. We shouldn't put people on pedestals in the first place...they will all always let us down at some point if we think they are perfect.
I am not thinking or writing in defense of Tiger Woods. Perhaps these events and especially the public knowledge of them will give him a chance for a "normal" life again...whatever that is. I never looked at him as a saint and quite honestly have often thought him as a spoiled child that has been programmed, coddled, pedestalized, and paid WAY TOO MUCH MONEY for selling everything from golf balls to Buicks. After all, who pays for all those endorsements? You and me, the consumer. The agencies and the media have always worked hand in hand to build idols in our culture who might cause us to spend spend spend in order to golf...or heaven forbid, DRIVE...like Tiger Woods.
Hopefully in due time this will all blow over and our society and the media will find new targets of their criticism and disdain. There will always be someone else or their family to snoop on and find out their hidden secrets that make them a "phony" in our eyes...but I think it is time to call it what it is. "We", the public and little people, LOVE bringing down the heroes to our levels. We can't stand to think of someone for very long as being perfect or superior to us. We really WANT these guys to have some dirty laundry, some slimy secret that finally makes them...like us. And we along with the media smirk and joke with our "circle" about all of Tiger's travails. I fully expect a huge collection of racial slurs and dirty jokes to start pouring into my email inbox regarding Tiger Woods. I also believe some of his sacrosanct corporate endorsements will fall by the wayside at least for a little while as the public pressures them to "punish" our former hero for his bad bad boy behavior.
I just find myself wistful for the era and culture where it was rude and vulgar to pursue or inquire about someone's personal lives. I'm afraid we have grown into a culture of extreme hypocrisy and wantonness. We apparently have nothing better to do than put our collective noses into the painful realities of our heroes families and personal lives. We apparently expect our leaders to have no bad habits, human weaknesses or sexuality unless it is by our definitions of what is right and correct. We judge and cast stones from our glass houses...sneering at those who would demand their privacy and rights to determine their own lifestyle. There is no moral majority in this world anymore. We have been tainted and injured by all of the reality that has been forced on us by our media...and we now want to take our revenge on the likes of Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, and all those terrible, weak men who have not lived up to OUR expectations of them.
I have some news for everybody. Our culture is feeding on its own flesh...and it is quite an ugly sight. Pornographic in its own way. Instead of shutting our eyes and ears to "evil", we are pretending to be more righteous and cleaner than the next guy. We love pursuing "blood and gore" and pander for all the details. And while we may say we would never do what Tiger or other fallen heroes have done...maybe, just maybe, they are actually more honest than most of the rest of us. Instead of just "thinking or fantasizing" about whoever they are attracted to, they have acted on it. How DARE they! Yet there is a deep down principle that I still believe in from Judeo Christian writings that says "there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?"..."let him who is without sin cast the first stone..."
So I must implore...stop "feeding on Tiger" and "get a life". And please Mr/Mrs reporter, spend as much time as you have pursuing Tiger's dark side on uncovering the truth about our wars, famine and hunger, corruption and government bailouts. It should be beneath you to sneak into people's bedrooms...either vicariously or in reality. Yes...the animals in the zoo are still having sex. Get over it.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
This is probably too big of a subject for a blog, but I want to get a FEW things off my chest about the news media, especially the USA version thereof.
From my last blog about my changing views on climate change and its affects on the environment, one friend of mine points out how tyrannical can it be NOT to have CBS, ABC, NBC or any of the "liberal" news agencies covering "Climategate". Apart from the "conservative" FOX network, the BBC and a number of online news companies...there is a deathly silence from mainstream news including CNN on this item which in many ways is a much BIGGER deal than "Watergate" was...for sure as it pertains to our global future. This "newsbuster" blog points this out quite poetically...
For me this is just the climax of a long history of observed decimation of the USA news media's ethics and integrity. It is becoming quite obvious to me that USA media companies are a huge factor in the dumbing down of, and control of, the American citizen and world perceptions of what America is all about. Yet, it is more complicated than it first appears to me. It is somewhat of a paradox for which it is hard to point to a core cause and affect for this phenomenon. Some would claim that media is just a pawn for government and corporate concerns to control the electorate's views on daily world happenings and government actions/decisions. Yet, there is enough significantly critical material against our government and leaders that it would be hard to imaging their having control on those media. Lets just say they are significant "players" in the battle over control of content in the media.
My current guess on why Climategate has not had airplay on much of the mainstream USA media is because of the significant leanings of the liberal owners of those media, many of whom have been significant spokesmen for the "Global Warming" cause. Also perhaps many of their key advertisers or even board members have jointly been working behind the scenes to "manipulate" this story "once they have determined which way the wind is blowing in public opinion". Many of the anti-global warming sources I have been reading this week quite believe these forces are "Fascists" on this subject. If you examine the meaning and history of Fascmism in the world, one begins to think this accusation is not far off the mark.
"In the economic sphere, many fascist leaders have claimed to support a "Third Way" in economic policy, which they believed superior to both the rampant individualism of unrestrained capitalism and the severe control of state socialism. This was to be achieved by establishing significant government control over business and labor."
From this one can easily contemplate the mentality behind world governments coming together such as in the upcoming "Copenhagen" meeting and using Climate Change as the unifier and igniter of a global re-order and for redistribution of wealth based on something other than pure capitalism or even socialism. These "leaders" seem to now be using this theme for renewed controls of the world economic order and increased GLOBAL taxation. I had read some of these accusations before this last week and had thought them to be extreme. Now...I find myself sadly agreeing this could indeed be the "hidden agenda" of these government bodies. They truly are not giving any credence to "Climategate".
All I can say is...thank God for the internet! While these powers are also trying in many ways to "control" and manipulate the "information highway"...so far we still have the freedom to write and access OUR choice of information. Those days may be limited my friends, but for now let us use our freedom to choose carefully what we read and listen too and make sure we INDEPENDENTLY interpret all that is out there. Unfortunately, there is never enough time for most of us who have jobs, pressures, kids to raise and bills to pay to independently study all these things. The sinister forces behind all this count on that reality that is yours. But as more of us WAKE UP as I did this week and realize how we are being manipulated, maybe more of us will prioritize better what we do with our time and attention. If we don't honestly evaluate and act on some of these huge issues, we will soon find ourselves living under some form of worldwide Fascism that will be a much bigger crisis than Nazi Germany or Mussolini ever dreamed of creating.
Of course, the biggest question on this theme to me is one of "cause and effect". Is the media a simple reflection of where public opinion wants to go, or are they leading public opinion? You could argue both sides of that coin. It is probably a scary combination of both. I see people blindly quote and believe in any sensationalist report that the media spews forth...especially IF it is aligned with their previous views. We all have a tendency to do that...but based on what I have been through on the Climategate issue these past years, I heartily suggest that we don't jump to any conclusions on any subject we do not know first hand until ALL the evidence is in and voices have been heard. Lets remember it took more than 100 years for most of humanity to accept that the world is not flat even once it was proven to them scientifically.
The biggest factor supporting a suppressed or manipulated media is the general antipathy of the market towards news topics of merit. The overall population is more interested in who won last nights "Dancing with the Stars", who is wearing what on the "red carpet" in Hollywood or the latest sensationalist rapist/serial killer than they are about observing the battle to control the Federal Reserve and money supply or price of gold versus the Dow Jones. There is no interest in "health-care" legislation until someone's "rights" to health-care are threatened. The average "Joe" does not care nor is really involved in markets and politics...so by default has left it in the secretive and manipulative hands of representative government. Only a very small percentage of our populations have enough money and education to really have a stake in what is going on in money supply or macro economics...and I am afraid our educational systems continue to foment that mentality. So to that end, capitalism and democratic government may not be very good bedfellows (oh oh...I think I have just incubated another blog topic).
My only solution for this media dilemma is to continue pursuing my "news and views" from a variety of independent and verifiable sources. I do most of my newspaper reading and even newscast viewing online now. Most of it is free and at my "fingertips" that way. I try and read or view material from a variety of leanings...left/right, republican/democrat, secular/non-secular...it all needs to be thrown into the mix over time to understand what makes up our complicated world affairs. Objectivity, wisdom and understanding takes a lifetime to accomplish...and hopefully I am only halfway through that process though I wish I was already smarter than I am.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
(Part 2 of above interview...click here)
(This is about the most difficult blog I have written to date)
While I count myself an "environmentalist" and believe in green and clean energy for improving our health and future quality of life, that does not make me a typical "tree hugger" or green "activist" trying to make a religion or major political movement out of the issue of ecology and the environment. I now find myself in a major quandary as I try to sort out a variety of new information and voices coming out against the message of "Global Warming" and CO2 emissions as a primary cause of our polluted planet. Throughout my life I have tried to keep an open mind about most major issues or conflict of thought. I admit I have no science background in most anything though I do my best to read and understand those basic sciences that affect my life and well being. I also accept core scientific principles as being rational and full of "cause and effect".
This past week as has been widely publicized (see this article), the email database of perhaps the most prestigious Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain was hacked. The hackers then released to the public over 1000 emails and 3000 documents detailing extreme conflicts between major proponents of climatic change over how to deal with or deny substantial new data that harpoons the now common perception that the polar icecaps are melting and CO2 emissions are leading us into a quick meltdown of our world as we know it. This is alarming to me primarily because I will be very disheartened to find out that these decades of alarm will have been a hoax and "much ado about nothing".
Until this news came to light, I had been giving short thrift to the naysayers and the seemingly minority who deny the level or danger of climatic change. On most themes in life I have tried not to be extremist on anything and like to take "the center" position until I am otherwise completely convinced on a debatable subject. Now that these emails and documents have hit the air, even if by underhanded, hacker oriented means...I find myself taking a big pause in my thinking before making blanket statements in a field I have little firsthand knowledge in. Is seems we are now in the middle of "infowars"...and those who came out against the UN climate report or Al Gore's campaign for the "Inconvenient Truth" are being heard from every side this week.
Added to that is a couple days of intense email conversation with a gentleman from Germany that I had seen posting on some blogs that I follow, and when I challenged him with a few of my presuppositions, he has come back at me with some pretty heavy information and resources that have to be considered in balance with all I have taken for granted until this time. In addition to the above video, here are a few links that he has sent me, and I welcome any of you interested or concerned for knowing the truth about this intense and infinitely important subject to check out these links and get back to me on how it affects YOUR thinking...
Sea Ice Extend: http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm
Temperature records since 1958: http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php
Must read: http://www.john-daly.com/polar/arctic.htm
Antarctic Ice extend this winter reached an all time record http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/NEWIMAGES/antarctic.seaice.color.000.png
It seems that most of the anti "climate change", hoax accusers basically believe that governments don't care if climate change claims are fraudulent or not...they just want the taxes, power and control that this global mania can bring to their doorstep for "saving the planet". Now that these emails and documents are "out of the bag" regarding all the conflicts between scientists, business and government leaders on this theme, it might certainly derail the current plans for the major "Global warming" summits planned in Copenhagen and elsewhere in the coming weeks and months.
While I am still trying to grapple with the reasons why global government purveyors would see "global warming" or climate change as THE way to overcome the sovereign individuality of world powers...it is not implausible to me that there might be merit to that accusation. After all, we ARE seeing collusion between the G20 countries to eradicate tax competition in the world so they can snuff out small competitive tax regimes. I believe our own USA government has used the 9/11 hysteria in order to rush to war, limit its citizens privacy and core legal freedoms...a la the "Patriot Act". History has shown that if you give governments an inch, they will take a mile...and we are seeing this happen both within the superpower governments of the world and also attempts at consolidation of powers in the UN and other international bodies of trade and governance. You connect media outlets with this triumvirate of global powers, you have huge control over mass mind-share, even in these days of the internet.
In this age of the super-sized corporate industrial complex, super-sized governments, and super-sized banking powers behind all of that...it is obviously not an advantageous time to be an independent "little guy"...or even "little country". The powers that are amassing have huge sway over "the system", and it makes one more understanding of the extremists both in Leftist governments and the "Jihadists" who maybe have reasons for their strange and aggressive behaviors. I'm not saying they are "right" in their actions...but their "zaniness" might be understandable as a survival tactic against such odds of power and money over-running their choices in life.
I'm afraid our world is further on the edge of major revolt and conflict...primarily between the haves and the "have nots". This "climategate" could be just one more significant domino that falls into the cause and effect factors of global conflict and even war. It is VERY scary to carry some of these thought processes to their ultimate conclusion...and we need to be very careful and cautious before jumping on ANY bandwagons. It is a time for strong individualism and thought leadership...and I'm afraid I don't see or hear much of that in the leading media or publications.
If this "Climategate" proves to be true as manipulation of the masses for power trips and controls, I will be very embarrassed for many things I have said and written on this subject. Yet, I would rather apologize and get it right than allow myself to be forever manipulated by powers that be into actions or INactions that are not justified. As my grandfather told me decades ago..."the most dangerous lie is that which is based on truth". I still believe we have huge environmental and climatic challenges to control and improve. I'm just not quite as sure of the causes or who is going to truly come to the rescue...but I am more and more convinced that it is not going to be governments that find the causes...or the solutions. Lets get back to private, market driven new studies and technologies that will solve our world's problems. Government bodies simply by their natures cannot be trusted. And we surely don't need to give them more of our money as fuel for THEIR fires. Let them manage with less just like the rest of us "average" global citizens.
Once again...who is and where is "John Galt"?
Here is another significant video link on this subject as produced in England. The evidence of deception continues mounting...
More effective links of interest...
November 29...new added links
The Scientists Involved in Deliberately Deceiving the World on Climate
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Sorry for this redundant subject this week, but I can't help but comment and give kudos to Apple, three utility companies, and Nike for resigning their memberships in the American Chamber of Commerce over the chamber's negative support of clean, green energy pursuits and legislation. It will be increasingly important to take moral stands on this subject that literally threatens mankind's existence. The need for clean energy and solutions to our polluted world and changing climates is so extreme that it might take a different kind of revolution in order to turn things around and give clean energy the priority it demands.
While I hate to see the politicization of such an important pursuit, it obviously requires support of the major world governments in order to turn this bus around. The corporate industrial complex has too many conflicts of interest to be the main thrusters of global change. It has become obvious that given the choice between short term profits or the long term survival of human existence as we know it...too many influential, powerful and moneyed interests prefer the short term windfall profits to long term quality of life for future generations.
It is unfortunate that many have pushed this agenda out of their minds or rationalized that it is all "natural" change and there is nothing we can do to affect our climate, the air we breathe or the water that we drink. I believe the mountain of evidence stresses otherwise, no matter what spokesman for the cause you have a problem with.
I applaud Apple and these other significant corporate leaders who have acknowledged the truth and demanded an honest approach to this global challenge from this important body of American corporate leaders. After all, it is mostly corporate concerns and profits that are perpetuating the annihilation of our world through pollution. It will take all of us caring humans to force them to turn this around...and it especially helps when some of these "big dogs" join the hunt for a better environment to live in. After all, what is money and profits if you have no health or freedom to enjoy them?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
(Final paragraphs from Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed piece at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/opinion/18friedman.html?_r=1&em )
"The world keeps getting flatter — more and more people can now see how we live, aspire to our lifestyle and even take our jobs so they can live how we live. So not only are we adding 2.5 billion people by 2050, but many more will live like “Americans” — with American-size homes, American-size cars, eating American-size Big Macs.
“What happens when developing nations with soaring vehicle populations get tens of millions of petroleum-powered cars at the same time as the global economy recovers and there’s no large global oil supply overhang?” asks Felix Kramer, the electric car expert who advocates electrifying the U.S. auto fleet and increasingly powering it with renewable energy sources. What happens, of course, is that the price of oil goes through the roof — unless we develop alternatives. The petro-dictators in Iran, Venezuela and Russia hope we don’t. They would only get richer.
So either the opponents of a serious energy/climate bill with a price on carbon don’t care about our being addicted to oil and dependent on petro-dictators forever or they really believe that we will not be adding 2.5 billion more people who want to live like us, so the price of oil won’t go up very far and, therefore, we shouldn’t raise taxes to stimulate clean, renewable alternatives and energy efficiency.
Green hawks believe otherwise. We believe that in a world getting warmer and more crowded with more “Americans,” the next great global industry is going to be E.T., or energy technology based on clean power and energy efficiency. It has to be. And we believe that the country that invents and deploys the most E.T. will enjoy the most economic security, energy security, national security, innovative companies and global respect. And we believe that country must be America. If not, our children will never enjoy the standard of living we did. And we believe the best way to launch E.T. is to set a fixed, long-term price on carbon — combine it with the Obama team’s impressive stimulus for green-tech — and then let the free market and innovation do the rest.
So, as I said, you don’t believe in global warming? You’re wrong, but I’ll let you enjoy it until your beach house gets washed away. But if you also don’t believe the world is getting more crowded with more aspiring Americans — and that ignoring that will play to the strength of our worst enemies, while responding to it with clean energy will play to the strength of our best technologies — then you’re willfully blind, and you’re hurting America’s future to boot."
While I am not convinced Obama or US government "leaders" truly see or understand what is at stake in the energy game, it was at least nice to see President Obama make a stab at some sort of clean energy initiatives with China this past week. At least he admitted in the global news conference that without the USA and China agreeing to clean up the environment, nothing will get done since those two countries alone provide about 42% of the carbon emissions on the globe.
What I really like about Mr. Friedmans model on this subject is the idea that the next great economies will come from whoever and wherever they produce new and cleaner energy. New energy is the key to surviving the coming population boom and reshaping of global populations due to climate change, famines and devastation both natural and man-made.
My step dad suggested when I was 18 and clueless that "waste management" was going to be a great industry of the future. I don't think he intended me to be a "garbage man" running around in a truck, but I have since met some people who became very wealthy by finding solutions to the growing mountains of human waste. Wish I was 18 again and looking for a future career. Energy Technology would be it.
A small update on this theme I just have to add today. A news piece I read this morning reinforces to me the theme of this blog. Sorry this article is only in Spanish...but it basically points out the irony of the energy situation here in Latin America where "el Nino" weather patterns are causing drought in many countries. Most of these country's energy is hydro-electric dependent. Because of climate change, even during the current rainy season in the tropics many areas continue with drought conditions reducing water levels for energy production. There have been blackouts in Brazil and Venezuela. The article points out the almost funny suggestions of President Chavez of how to "conserve" energy during these times by using a flashlight instead of turning on the lights when they get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. A pathetic non-response to what will be an ongoing problem in Venezuela and the world. ALL of these countries are in dire need of new, sustainable energy sources that don't count on oil or hydro electric dams. Its time for them to add solar, wind and natural gas solutions to their energy equations.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I'm getting into a strange habit of waking up dreaming topics of my next blog. Here's the latest...
Pornography is big business in the world and continues to be another area of "human behavior" that various governments and religions want to control or legislate. While anyone that is a parent or wants to protect children from adult themes is understandably supportive of controlling public content...it still is an area of behavior whose control needs to be in the hands of the local community more than a "nationalist" cause.
The first problem with pornography is how do you define it as a culture? The core dictionary definition is "material that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement". Of course the battle over that basic definition is who determines "intent" and what is "erotic" or not. Some would argue that the Bible has quite a bit of "erotic" content, especially in the writings of "Solomon" where there is much description of a man's attraction to a female's body and bold descriptions thereof. Is this "erotic" or pornographic? It could be to some...
Most government positions on pornography is "Pornographic material is protected expression unless it is determined to be obscene. However, child pornography is illegal under federal and state laws prohibiting the depiction of minors in sexual acts." Of course here the definition of "obscene" and age of majority are quite varied from country to country or culture to culture. Who is to finally determine the age of majority or what is obscene or not? The opinions can be as varied as the number of humans on a committee or government body. When pressed on this theme, I have heard or read many leaders say "I can't define obscenity in words...I just know it when I see it". Again, not very concrete terms under which to judge the legality of sexual content in media or the arts.
Some people think that any showing of genitalia, whether it is in a sex film or on an artistic statue or painting is "pornographic". Some view any nudity in films as "pornographic" while others think "anything goes" if a person chooses it, including bestiality, masochism/sadomasochism, gay sex or pedophilia. Some countries/cultures are very liberal and permissive of human sexuality and behavior choices while others continue with "Victorian" principles. Some countries like Denmark and The Netherlands have high degrees of tolerance while most Arab/Islam countries have heavy penalties even to capital punishment for involvement in pornography or forbidden sex. When you get down to a mixing bowl like the USA population, it seems a pretty tall order to make determinations for everyone on what the limits and definitions are.
We seem to be living in a world of EXTREMES when it comes to this subject. You have religions and cultures that demand the complete covering of every body part, especially for women. Then you also still have a few aboriginal tribes that live in tropical areas with total nudity. National Geographic used to focus a lot on these people when I was growing up and I think was used as initial sex education material by many more "prudish" sectors of society. Playboy was out, National Geographic "in".
I find it quite impacting how "liberal" western civilization's media has become on sexual themes. Whether things are "pornographic" or not seems to be a very subjective thing depending on who you talk to. Things that used to be very private and hardly ever talked about are now on all the major networks...and the "MTV generation" has long been exposed to sexually explicit content with even a large amount of gay depictions on programs geared to minors. While on one hand I think it healthy for teens to get education on human sexuality and feel good about their sexuality in a responsible manner...I think many media shows have gone way too far too soon in presenting some of these themes to minors who spend most of their free time watching these shows instead of reading or other more productive activities. The biggest problem with this is that parents or other significant adults are usually totally out of the loop in presenting or discussing these sexual themes with their dependents. One might ask if hetero sexual photos in Playboy or Penthouse or in the case of women, "Playgirl", are any more pornographic than an MTV show that depicts teens of the same sex kissing and fondling on International TV?
Cause and effect of this topic is interesting. Are young people more promiscuous than they were 30-40 years ago? Some of the studies I have seen would suggest that they are less active than those of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s. Personally I am not sure that more exposure to "porn" leads to more promiscuity as I think more liberal, educated young people are less "titillated" by pornographic content than those who were protected from it and then exposed at a later point in life. We see some of the most extreme sexual predators coming out of religions and cultures that were very legalistic or Victorian in nature. It is as if by forbidding the fruit of this material, we make it that much more appealing...much like the forbidden apple in the story of Adam and Eve. If you tell someone they CAN'T have or see something...human nature seems to crave it that much more.
This topic presents a "Catch 22" to me. I believe the human mind can be exposed to a lot of things of this nature without necessarily being affected permanently or negatively by it. Yet, obviously kids at an early age are susceptible to coercion and manipulation by adults and by adult media when it comes to their sexuality. It's one thing if a person finds themselves prone to homosexuality or other "non-traditional" forms of sexual behaviors...it is another thing to try and convince a young life to question their natural tendencies. On this theme I have grown to be sensitive to those who grow up with gay tendencies and having everyone try to guilt trip them about their nature. On the other hand, I find it unconscionable to allow adults to prey sexually on minors, whether it be hetero or homo. I've seen this way too close in my life and will swiftly come to the support of anyone who is experiencing this kind of pressure, especially a minor.
So, back to the core issue of pornography...what is and what isn't? I think it is a very personal thing. For people to deny their sexuality or curiosity about it is not natural or healthy in my opinion. The sooner we realize that humans developed with very strong sexual drives and curiosities...the better, more adjusted humans we will be. I have seen very rigid, conservatively raised people grow up to be sexually addicted in various ways...and I have seen completely liberal, unrestricted people grow up to be very responsible and monogamous partners in a relationship. There is no guarantee from either background of being "sexually adjusted".
The only restrictions I feel should be strongly imparted by a culture is the protection of their children from adult predators. To that end I support limiting exposure to minors of certain materials that would commonly and obviously be labeled "adult" or pornographic. As a parent, Uncle, or responsible adult...I think it important to protect our children as long as we can, yet there comes a time where we should be prepared to discuss with them anything they want to discuss related to sexuality or pornography...however it is defined. If we are too prudish or protective ourselves, it might be a bit difficult to have a knowledgeable and fair conversation with those under our charge or help them grow into adjusted and prepared adults for the big bad world out there.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
(Click here to see the video)
"The government's role is to protect "us"..."
Reverend Al Sharpton, on "This Week" news show, Nov 1, 2009
As I usually do on Sunday mornings, today I watched the key Sunday morning weekly news shows like "Face the Nation" and "This Week". I find this exercise helps me keep track of the political pulse in the USA in the shortest amount of time and with greatest impact. The panel discussions on "This Week" are usually most intriguing to me as a microcosm of debate between liberal, centrist, and conservative "talking heads" as they battle out their positions in short debate form. It is one of the few programs which feature simultaneously the likes of George Will and the "Reverend" Al Sharpton in discussion of the key issues of the week. This week the key discussions were on the upcoming local and state level elections, defining the major battles and issues...and of course a lot is made of the weeks latest polls on everything from health-care to the popularity of President Obama.
The core debate currently in the political arena at a macro level is defining the role of government in a democracy. Towards the end of the program "This Week", I felt Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Will summarized the core philosophical difference between liberal and conservative political views succinctly when Al Sharpton said vehemently that "the role of government is to protect us" to which George Will replied "I thought the role of government was to protect OUR RIGHTS...even from government itself". This struck me as the heart of the matter for so MANY issues our country is facing right now.
While the Democrats and President Obama continue to have the power and influence from the last election cycle to have their way for now, there is obviously a strong back lash against many of the big government plans and controls the administration and congress together are pushing forward. As someone else on the program said, "with this health-care bill, the Democrats are pushing the shopping cart down the aisle as fast as they can and filling it with as much control and power items that they can get passed in short order".
In reaction to this, the Republican party leadership is pushing the party further to the extreme "right", and it seems we are seeing a number of people leave both parties to pursue more INDEPENDENT or centrist pursuits. Unfortunately, panel members from each party persuasion castigate "independents" as being "Perot extremists"...as if independents all line up behind the ideologies of this independent figurehead of over 20 years ago who hasn't been heard from in the political arena in a long time. They seem to be afraid to bring up current independent thinkers like Congressman Ron Paul or Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. Joe Lieberman is the other "poster child" of independent politicians and he was interviewed briefly on "Face the Nation" today...but the media gives very short shift to the independent movement and loves to continue the battle between two parties that in my view both represent "big government" programs even if from different applications thereof.
While I find it somewhat nauseating to have people like Al Sharpton (I would personally never call him "Reverend" and I don't know why the media continues to do so since he is now more a full time political pundit than a "reverend") be the best they can find to represent the mainstream liberal Democratic cause (what happened to Donna Brazile who is a much smoother, more intelligent representative of the liberal democrat agenda?). Yet, the scary part is that Al Sharpton probably better represents the mindset and attitude of that sector's voting public. Simplistic, fear-mongering, banner waving hype on "equal rights" and the poor masses that need big government protection has over run more intelligent, objective and rational debates. Where are the intelligent, better educated leaders that used to lead that democratic charge? Why can't we see more debates and interviews by intelligent minority leaders like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, or even Jesse Jackson Jr. who would arguably be a better image and mouthpiece for minority and liberal causes than Sharpton.
But, more important then personality or image issues, it is the content of thought and reason that worries me and I think many more like me. Since when did the constitution change so much as to make the government guarantors of so many social benefits? When did the constitution change to allow for so much taxation without representation? When did the switch happen from the purpose of protecting individual rights and our borders to government's current mandate of controlling markets, currencies, health-care, unemployment benefits, arts endowments, foreign nation building, and the right to go to war without Congress declaring war?
If government's role is first and foremost to protect "us" versus protecting our rights and freedoms, then I am afraid our democracy is doomed to the realities of this...my favorite quote on democracy from the late 1700s...
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess of the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years.
These nations have progressed through this sequence:from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance;from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency;from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.
--Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813) Scottish jurist and historian
A couple bonus quotes on this theme...
Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity.
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.” -- Thomas Jefferson
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
To get objective news and viewpoints about what is REALLY going on and what the issues REALLY are in Afghanistan, you have to get outside the USA news media. I share just a few of many reports you can find on Youtube that give you the "Ugly Truth" of what America can look forward to accomplishing for all the lives and billions of dollars we are wasting there while not reaching any real objectives. I will let the videos speak for themselves and welcome you to find the additional chapters of these newscasts online to help you shape your own view or opinion about the American government's role and accomplishments in that region. I guess your other option is to just stay in the dark and "trust your government"...
(Finally, a video trailer from "CSNY, Deja Vu" released in 2008. I saw this on HBO this week. If you can rent it or download it, I think it is very thought provoking, if only to analyze how similar these conflicts are to our country's "Viet Nam" era...and the grass roots response/revolt to government war-mongering.)
(Finally, a video trailer from "CSNY, Deja Vu" released in 2008. I saw this on HBO this week. If you can rent it or download it, I think it is very thought provoking, if only to analyze how similar these conflicts are to our country's "Viet Nam" era...and the grass roots response/revolt to government war-mongering.)
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Lately I have been thinking quite a bit how many similarities there are to the processes of democracy and religion in the past 200 years. Arguably, most democracies and religions start on a fresh, positive premise to offer mankind a new start in life, whether it be one of personal freedoms or just a fresh start for one's conscience. But very soon the "human factor" and rationalizations impact the original premise until nothing really remains true to the original cause.
We have seen this the longest in religions where an originator presents a case for profound new beginnings and then the followers start adding their embellishments to what he/she said or stood for until the founder of a faith would be hard pressed to recognize what they began. If Jesus or Mohammad were physically walking around our world today, I doubt either one of them would recognize the religions carried on in their names. Bibles and Qurans are written by various men under the influence of their religious leader(s), then some hierarchical group or "Diocese" hundreds of years later declare WHICH writings are mystically inspired by "God" and which aren't. Then we have a couple thousand years of "holy wars" to see who is right and wrong on the God question. Quite barbaric if you look back honestly on the history of war and religion. I'm not sure that we are any more enlightened on this today than we were 200 or 2000 years ago. We have put God in a box, and branded him to look and act a lot like..."us". Scary business.
Lately many people have started predicting the death of democracy as we once knew it. What originally started as pursuit of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" has turned into a frothing free for all of the governed looking to vote in whoever will promise to lead them and take care of their every need. The original Greek meaning of the word Democracy. "power of the people", had turned into "power of the government". Elections are bought and paid for the world over and the populace continues to vote based on popularity contests and the best media manipulation money can buy. When the people start disbelieving their vote or opinion counts in a democracy, that is the beginning of a quick end to that system's existence.
As I read and understand the USA's constitution and "Bill of Rights", the foundation of America's democracy was to protect the rights of the individual from the "tyranny of the majority". We have to give credit to this original concept even though it took over 150 years to grant equal rights to minority races and women...that only after one of the world's most costly civil wars to force the concept of "liberty and justice for all". Yet, many critiques of democracy are now pointing out the unfortunate evolution of this imperfect system of government. It has now morphed into a huge majority of DEpendent, unprincipled masses run by weak leaders arguably controlled by the financial elite...bankers and international money funds. Money in the end truly rules the world. Money buys vote, influences weak minds through media and even spreads it's rationalizations through many organized religions. After all, many religions claim to stand for peace and justice while laying claim to being the driving force of democracy's forefathers. While religious principles were obviously part of America's forefathers morality model, it was hardly their sole motivation. Meanwhile it is primarily religious fascism that is fighting for control in many of the world's countries, supported by the need of humans to BELONG to a cause. There seems to be some innate part of many humans who respond to mystical calls of dying for your belief and/or country. It is somehow selfish to think for yourself, have your own opinion or beliefs in many countries. Humanity strives to label each of us based on our race, creed, religion or borders. The individuality and self reliance that was foremost in the minds and experience of America's forefathers is in my opinion a dying breed in this day and age.
I think most thinking people would admit that there is no true, perfect government or religion in today's world. Yet, we continue to do battle between religions and governments for dominance and power...if simply over control of the minds of the masses. Many Christians believe the USA is a "Christian" nation even though the faith's founder never suggested such a connection between faith and government was desirable. The world's largest religion, Islam, has become as multi-faceted as Christianity with its many sects and fiefdoms...with only the most radical/fundamental getting any press or attention. Perhaps they are the world's fastest growing religion based on their claim to accept Christianity's Jesus as one of their prophets while fundamental Christianity ONLY accepts Jesus as leader/Messiah. And of course the strong ties between Christianity and old testament Judaism only add to the millennial inbred conflicts between these oldest of religions.
One would like to think that a couple thousand years later mankind is a little more "enlightened" to what is real and what is not. You would think that the cause and effect of Western Civilization the past 400 years would find us having more participants in the "age of enlightenment". Yet it seems the masses of the world continue to find itself enslaved to physical cravings and impulses more than mental stimulation and reasoning. Instead of doing the heavy lifting of thinking for ourselves, we deed over our reasoning to the "authoritarians" in all our institutions...from families to churches to governments. I know this probably sounds like a never ending theme to those of you who read most of my blogs or carry on dialogue with me. Yet, I feel I can't over emphasize the folly we are committing to not think and take action for ourselves based on the direction our religions and democracies are going. Real religion and democracy is "going away" as far as I am concerned and being replaced with the continued rituals and blind adherence to disproved fables and follies. Original premises of faith and democratic government are being over run by the manipulation of reason and even the manipulation of markets and finances...which are used to "sell us" the latest concoction of unprincipled thinking and continued manipulation of "mob rule".
We have too much "noise" in our lives to be able to think clearly. There is no unity in the human experience. Our daily lives are filled with conflict, disagreements, consumer pitches for the good life...various calls for escape from reality and reason. "Eat drink and make merry, for tomorrow we might die" rules much of the universe. Very few religions or governments believe in empowering individuals to think and act responsibly and independently. If something bad happens, people think they must have some evil lurking within their souls deserving such bad fortune or they think the government should be there to bail them out of their dilemmas. Person to person responsibility and good will have been replaced by government and religious programs and "fund-raising". Escape into drugs and alcohol continues to increase especially in Western Civilization while only fundamentalist religious experience seems to insulate many in the masses from that same fate. The prisons are fuller every day with those who would buck this system and refuse to capitulate to "the majorities" instituted lifestyle or acceptable behaviors.
In my opinion, our only future hope is to return to the "power of one" I have periodically talked about on this blog. It would be prudent to be careful what we accept as fact in modern day media and even philosophical/faith oriented readings. The amount of deviation on core facts and historical perspectives is mind-boggling, and the reality is a vast majority of humanity have no time or education to analyze what truth really is. For those of us who do have that time or background...it is very troubling to sort through all the distortion and mis information to arrive at reasonably justified positions on most any subject...and on top of that this is a very lonely path to take in life.
The major irony of this whole subject is that the institutions of religion and government have gotten so far from their origin of purpose, they actually work as an antithesis of what their original purposes were. Religion was supposed to unify man around core beliefs and principles of morality that would unify, protect and explain the meaning of life and community. Instead religion has turned into the great divider of mankind...turning ourselves on each other towards some Darwinianesqe nightmare process of survival of the most committed...instead of focusing our attention on the truly divine or awe of that which cannot be explained. Instead, we count on religion to explain everything to us so we don't have to pursue truth for ourselves or on our own terms.
When it comes to contemporary democracy...we once again have allowed the institution of government to overrun the actual "will of the people". The will of the people seems now bent on being protected and "taken care of" versus having to face the world individually and make the most of it that we can as individuals. The labels of self are now focused on what you "do", believe, whether you are right, left, moderate or independent. It has nothing to do with your qualities or most inner self anymore. Self has been sacrificed on the altar of "the common good". The pressure is to conform, or be ruled as inconsequential.
Finally, I leave you with a few favorite quotes on religion and democracy...
"I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Galileo (1632)
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." Ghandi
"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." Thomas Paine
"We have put God in a box, and branded him to look and act a lot like..."us" ...me
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." CS Lewis
"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."...Hermann Goering (Nazi leader)
"The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within." Ghandi
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I have some new friends in my life...young entrepreneurs in their 20s from the USA who are in Panama examining global business opportunities in Latin America. I have to say I have been stimulated and encouraged by them to be more hopeful that change is possible and there is still hope for the human race even in light of the dark clouds of current world affairs.
One of these new friends, Stephen (not actual name), is a good looking young man of 19 years...who graduated college at age 17, has been in business with his father since age 15, and already wise and better read than most people of any age. To find a person like this in this day and age is like a refreshing drink of cold water after spending years in a scorched desert. I am going to start referring to Stephen as "John Galt", the hero and mastermind character in Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" who in the story caused the "...withdrawing (of) the "minds" that drive society's growth and productivity; with their strike these creative minds hope to demonstrate that the economy and society would collapse without the profit motive and the efforts of the rational and productive." If you haven't read "Atlas Shrugged", you can get a short synopsis of it at this wikipedia link...though I highly recommend reading the whole book.
Anyways, from my conversation with Stephen, I was reminded of a few previous thoughts I have had about the socialization of the mind and how modern media and culture is so effectively keeping the collective consciousness in a retarded state of being. This collective morass continues to grovel in subservience to the existing global powers and medias...most of which emanate rumors and innuendos into such a frothy state that we consume lies and misdirection like we would our favorite dessert...we like ours "a la mode". We consume this drivel until we actually believe many of the lies ourselves...or fall victim to focusing our attention on trivialities or the blood and gore of "others" so we don't have to look at the devastation of our own realities.
When I asked Stephen what was the backdrop for his advanced state of education, understanding and individuality at such an early age, his answer was astoundingly simple. (I paraphrase) "I grew up in a town of 20 people in the USA, home schooled until I went to college, and basically didn't have anybody telling me what "grade level" I should be reading or doing math at. My natural mind and curiosity never repressed had me doing college algebra at 8 years of age and instead of watching TV or other common wastes of time, I was a voracious reader".
The key for this young man as I perceived him was that he had no "controls" on his mind, time or capacities. Even though he has lived most of his life in a very remote part of America, through books and objective observation of the media he developed a very wide grasp of society, various civilizations, governments and religions. While he was raised in a mainstream protestant religious tradition...he also seems quite objective and ambivalent about religion as he has put his background in perspective with other religious and philosophical studies. This is a young man who has keen observations and reasons for his positions...and he is quite sure of what he thinks...and at least as far as I'm concerned...he is spot on in so many regards. To sum this up...he has learned "TO THINK".
He told me that his first real "socialization" took place at a major state university at age 15. It was there that he realized...and continues to portend...that mass or public "education" is very limited and futile. It is more about "programming" than educating. Grades and other rewards go to those who "conform", please the teacher/professor, and go with the flow. Those who question too much...or even "know more than the teacher"...are reprimanded, sometimes taunted, but usually just ignored. He also said "Most students don't take responsibility for their own educations. With good teachers students just perform up to the standards laid out for them to "get the grade", and if its a bad teacher and they get a bad grade, they just blame and accept the limitations of the teacher/professor." The macro for me on this is most humans simply accept the limitations placed on them...their status in life, the authorities in their lives, and never question what they are taught. This is what makes the growing tide of humanity good little "robots" instead of free thinking, free living individuals without limits.
I am reminded of the effective ad I saw over the years in the USA of "the mind is a terrible thing to waste"...which basically is used to support the idea of bettering public education. Unfortunately I think it has come down to the fact that if someone really wants to enhance their or their child's educations, they are better off to school them at home or not at all. Encourage/teach a child to read and write and then let them go. If they don't have fast foods, fast video games and 2000 TV channels to fill up their time and minds...they just might reach their potential intellectually and otherwise. They might have to use their imaginations. Unfortunately, our society from parents, to teachers, to institutional leaders are more interested in uniform behavior and thinking..."behavior modification" if you want to put it in psychological terms. Creativity is out the window. Even those foreign students in the world who are arguably surpassing the accomplishments of USA students overall are only learning to copy ideas and functionality versus learning creativity or originality. Individuals in very controlled environments generally will NOT learn to think creatively. There is a huge difference between tasks performed by "rote" versus originality of thought and action.
Just like economics where the world is seeing things going in polar directions...the rich are richer and the poor are poorer...you are seeing the same in the battle for the mind in my estimation. There are fewer really excelling or ALLOWED to excel in the world, while the general global mindset falls further behind the curve. Just this reality could be the key factor why our world leaders cannot sort out the simplest of conflicts and must uncomprehendingly resort to brute force and mortal solutions to "control" the world. Reason and thought are out the window at most levels of global leadership. The focus is on maintaining power and equilibrium of the status quo or requiring acceptance of religious factions and dogma as the underpinnings for major peace agreements or from which to establish borders and sovereignty. The failed leaders do not want to give up their power and influence...and those that have the knowledge and/or wisdom are afraid to exercise it because they realize they will soon be overpowered and out-voiced...in many cases thrown into prisons...because of their words, ideas or "contrariness" to popular opinion or religious dogma.
Another interesting illustration of these changes in the world came out in our conversations yesterday. In one short lifetime, my friends and I have seen actual DNA changes based on human meddling in the animal kingdom. Mankind is caught up in "trophy hunting"...which primarily is about hunting for the strongest and fittest example of a species, and then killing it and placing it on our wall as an example of our prowess and strength as "hunters". In the animal kingdoms of North America, and now Africa and other continents, you are seeing the complete obliteration of certain species and the "taming" of what were once independent and wild species into domesticated, more subservient lineages serving the needs of the masses for either menial labor or food supply. The brunt of the matter is that when you breed formerly savage or wild animals...whether it be bison, horses, deer, or even bear or lions...in captivity and a sedated state of being...that species of animal will weaken and they will continue to morph or evolve into some form of domesticated, broken spirited animal...no different than a dog or a cat. They will evolve into being BORN in that condition.
I believe we are seeing this phenomenon within the human race. Most humans live and operate in an oppressive, subservient state of existence. Their purpose is to serve the greater good. They are rewarded for being "role model citizens" who obey all the rules. They are rewarded for being a "team player". It is rude and punishable behavior to disagree or have a strong opinion contrary to the majority. To be self sacrificing for "God", country or your fellow man is held up as the highest honor and purpose in life. And while bravery, sacrifice for freedom, or coming to the aid of your fellow man can be noble and good...even these greatest of qualities are manipulated and misused by man's institutions who perpetuate the circumstances which demand or legislate those human sacrifices. True life and freedom is NOT sacred to those governments or religions who perpetuate war and conflict...yet they purport to positions over our lives as "protectors" and "advocates" of our individual rights and freedoms. What a preposterous lie and cover up of the reality!
I don't know where the reader of this stands related to how socialized your thinking has become. I would only call into question an honest evaluation of what your potential was, is or will be...and challenge each of us to reprogram our minds from any influence or activity that keeps us from reaching our individual potential. The key is not who or what will HELP US achieve...but ridding ourselves of any influences that would KEEP US from achieving or have us compromise who we are or what we think..."for the greater good". When every individual is free like my young friend to grow at their own pace, free and unfettered by the "social effect", only then will we truly see all of humanity rise to its potential and control of its future level of existence.
Freedom of the mind is more important than freedom of the body.
Friday, October 16, 2009
"This Center for Freedom and Prosperity Foundation video explains why a value-added tax would be a dangerous money machine for big government. The evidence from Europe also shows that VATs actually lead to higher income taxes." www.freedomandprosperity.org
I spotted this on Sam's "Prima Panama" blog today and I have periodically shared videos from this same group before on this blog. It just strikes me as absurd that with the current loss of jobs and continually stressed economy that the USA government can add on top of everything else a VAT. When are the voters/citizens going to say ENOUGH! and demand downsizing and balancing of budgets? How many companies and high income citizens need to leave their own country leaving a productive vacuum in their wake before America wakes up to the reality of its dilemma and potential demise.
The DOW is up and America is rejoicing as far as I can tell from watching CNN and FOX this past week. DOW gets past 10,000...whoopee! The dollar continues to fall to all new lows against many currencies and gold and precious metals are at now highs. What does that tell even the most casual economic bystander? What indicators are driving the market?
I'll place my bets on Nouriel Roubini's perspective over the USA media's spin meisters...as he states in today's blog and article at BBC News...
By Michelle Fleury
Business reporter, BBC News, New York
The US economist widely credited with having predicted the financial crisis has warned we are already "planting the seeds of the next crisis".
Nouriel Roubini told the BBC that he is concerned about the growing gap between the "bubbly and frothy" stock markets and the real economy.
Over the last six months, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen about 45%.
But Mr Roubini says he sees an economy where consumers are "shopped out" and "debt burdened".
'Crisis not over'
Based on the run up in share prices in recent months, investors appear to be betting that good times are around the corner. A view not shared by Mr Roubini.
"The crisis is not yet over," the New York University professor said.
"I see an economy where the consumers are shopped out, debt burdened, they have to cut back consumption and save more.
"The financial system is damaged... and for the corporate sector I don't see a lot of capital spending because there is a glut of capacity."
Mr Roubini believes US house prices have further to fall, straining America's fragile recovery.
Property prices have already declined sharply. According to the National Association of Realtors, the national median has dropped almost 13% from a year ago to $177,700 (£110,100).
Many believe the crises in the residential market could spread to the commercial real estate market causing more headaches for the banks.
So where does the "froth" in the markets come from?
Mr Roubini - like many other economists - believes it is engineered by the Federal Reserve and the government which has been pumping cash into the economy to dampen the pain of the recession.
"There is a wall of liquidity chasing assets," he said. "But I think that there is a growing gap between what is the asset prices and the real economy."
Although he thinks there will be a correction, he believes some of the mistakes of the past can be avoided if reforms are implemented .
I continue to be totally baffled and amazed at the ludicrous controls and spins the Federal Reserve and government are placing on the markets. We are quickly getting to the point of no return on runaway inflation, runaway taxation and big government, and for sure only a revolution in American's thinking and actions will be able to restore it to its former greatness.
What used to be "God bless the USA" is quickly turning into the prayer "God HELP the USA"...
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Last week I saw a very entertaining movie called "The Ugly Truth", an adult comedy on the differences between men and women and how it is oft times hard to be honest about the differences between the sexes. I feel it is now time, if only for my sanity sake and for the sake of full disclosure on "living in Panama" that I express the "ugly truth" about banking and general service culture in Panama.
There are many charms and advantages to living in Panama and Latin America in general from a cultural and surely financial standpoint. The cost and stress of living on a daily basis is significantly reduced from "first world" living and if you can adapt and understand the Latin way of living, your life can be overall changed and improved as far as quality is concerned...IF you are willing to back way from your first world service expectations.
The biggest reason over 70% of foreigners who try and move offshore to Latin America return to their homelands within 2 years is simply the disillusion with basic services in their new-found country of residence. Sure, there are other main reasons like the isolation from family and friends back home and the often difficult challenge of making new friends and establishing camaraderie with locals ...especially if you don't know the local language and customs. But 90% of the people I talk to who are "heading out" from these pristine shores, their decision is based on their disillusionment with basic services, dishonesty and downright being robbed blind for being a "handicapped foreigner". What I mean by "handicapped foreigner" is the lack of equal rights and even pricing when it comes to basic goods and services tied to the inability of many "expats" to communicate and reason in the local language. If you are not able to communicate clearly or have many layers of people "handling" your basic service needs in Panama and elsewhere...you are definitely a walking target for inequity and even abuse.
Let me start the "Ugly" list of stories and experiences to back my premise. If you move or even just try to set up business in these Latin countries, you need to understand that you are...and will always be...the outsider. Some of us are used to that within the makeup of our personalities, way of thinking and general individualism as we decipher our life experiences. But a majority of people I think go through life quite dependent on "others", whether it be government, family or work friends. You cannot depend on much or any of that in these emerging Latin markets. You have to be self-sufficient and made of "Teflon"...letting difference and contrariness roll off you without affecting your state of being either emotionally, physically or financially.
The first and biggest area of disappointment I have found in living and doing business in Panama and elsewhere in Latin America is the totally dysfunctional and bureaucratic banking institutions. While Panama boasts the purported second largest financial center in the WORLD, the accessibility and functionality within that sector of Panama's economy is alarming and appalling. I could write a mini-book here of personal and friend's stories related to dealing with banks in Panama and Costa Rica. To take up the challenge of an abridged version of the story, let me give a few brief descriptions of some of these experiences...and while it probably would not make much difference if a Panamanian banker, government official or bank regulator read this, it is at least self serving therapy to put this in writing...and wishing they WOULD read and be affected by these experiences.
Banking and establishing new accounts in Panama is all about WHO you know...not WHAT you know. You can know ALL the processes, and if you are lucky enough to find a bank that actually writes down all the qualifying measures of establishing a banking relationship with them...you can complete every item of the checklist and they will still come back to you with 5, 8 or a dozen additional items they "forgot" or need in order to establish you as a client. Now this reality is mostly just for us "little guys" or small business. If you are a large "money launderer" or multi-national company with millions to put in their bank...you can forget about any requirement list and basically get your account open on a handshake between "friends" in a few hours.
Obviously in the last few years there have been a mountain of new regulations and international pressure on banks everywhere including Panama to "know their customer" and gather more data on account holders. It has become quite evident that even Panama's purported "bank privacy laws" are meaningless within large international or USA based banks in Panama. The international banking laws and primarily the USA's anti-terrorism and money laundering regulations run rough shod over Panama's own bank sovereignty and regulations. Banks worldwide are now basically the first line of protection and information gathering/sharing...for governments...not for their clients. Banks in Panama that are international will share all info on foreign clients through data exchange with the domicile banking or government requests, no matter what the local regulations may say. So one must recognize right out of the gate that entering into a banking relationship with most international banks equals giving up your privacy and control on YOUR money and you are basically giving license to the banks and governments everywhere to share information on everything they can find out about you. They will know and will reveal to each other every transaction you make if requested: where you buy your groceries, what bar you drink at, who you do business with and even what sexual services or products you chose to purchase or participate in. Now many "moralists" would argue "what is wrong with that...you shouldn't be doing anything that would embarrass you in public or that you wouldn't want the government to know about". Unfortunately, that mentality feeds right into the global mentality that collective need and greed is more important than individual rights and sovereignty. I have enough blogs on those issues, so won't regurgitate that theme here...but that mentality does impact all the way to the relationship between you and your banker. Basically...outside of small private banks, YOU don't have a banker...the government does.
There are many stories both in Panama and internationally that prove in action that the money in most bank accounts can be frozen or absconded by a government or banking entity just based on an unproven accusation or "suspicion" of wrong doing. Due process and legal notification which used to be a staple of first world financial systems are out the window in recent years...and it seems the majority agree with this mentality...until they become victim to false charges or lawsuits that tie up THEIR bank accounts. So out of the gate I am saying here that banking anywhere including Panama starts with the premise that any assets you have in those institutions are "public" knowledge and the banks primary interest always seems to fall on the side of "reporting" your financial life to any institution that requests that knowledge.
If you cross swords or publicize your displeasure with your bank/banker, they often times can simply tie up or cancel your account without cause or notice. There was a high profile case here in Panama a couple years ago with Bank of America where a North American millionaire owned a Panama company and had those corporate funds lodged with Bank of America. When the client experienced bad service continually and had money even disappearing mysteriously from that corporate account, he filed a law suit and went public with his displeasure after getting no satisfaction for his grievances with the bank. The response of the bank was to freeze his company's millions on account and counter sue him for "defamation". This was done according to the press without notification to the client and within a 24 hour period with no due process. As far as I know that case is still pending a couple years later...because the other reality is that in Panama the due process of law is very slow and backlogged (I'll get to lawyers and the legal profession in a minute)...and in essence you are guilty until proven innocent...UNLESS you are a government official or part of the wealthy elite.
My final point for now in regards to banks is regarding the process for getting a mortgage, or what they call "hipoteca", down here. The banks advertise some very competitive rates compared to the international markets for mortgages and for interest on deposits in these banks, but the reality is for foreigners that only those who don't really need a mortgage can get one. If you're willing to lock up money in a savings account in Panama, then the banks will loan you up to 80% of the value of YOUR money. They won't even care that much about the value of the real estate that they ALSO have first position on if you default on payment. That's a pretty secure position for the bank and a main reason why the local banks in Panama are overall healthier than USA banks.
When people come here and ask me how long it will take to get a mortgage or bank account open, I have to honestly tell them "anywhere from one to six months". When I first moved to Panama, I was fortunate to have developed a relationship with a law firm who introduced me to one of the major Panamanian banks who helped me open an account in about 10 days. I am sorry to report that is VERY rare today. The Panama bank system has succumbed and surrendered to so much additional regulation and paperwork that even with an attorney representing you, it will usually take minimally 2-4 weeks to get an account opened. One law firm I used to recommend for this service are no longer offering the service of opening bank accounts, because they have lost many big customers through the client's reactions to not getting accounts qualified and opened within a reasonable time...and most times the attorney is not to blame...but is blamed anyways. These banks almost daily lose files, lose significant documents within a file, or just get so backlogged that they won't tell you a time-line for getting your account. And if you are doing all the footwork/paperwork yourself...it can become a full time job for a number of weeks to run through all the hoops or collect all the information they want on you or your company before they will take your money.
I just had a good friend go through the ringer with a major local bank in getting a mortgage on his condo. He wanted to do some improvements on his place, had paid cash for the condo which market value is currently around $160,000. He has excellent credit in the USA and no issues in Panama with an existing bank account at another local bank for the past 4 years. He only applied for a $10,000 mortgage...over 3 months ago. The bank has told him 3 different times in these 3 months that "everything is done". He was told 2 months ago that legal had approved his paperwork and the money would be in his account in 2 days...so he went back to the USA thinking everything was done. When the money never showed up in his account he had to call for over a week from the USA to find out the reason for no deposit having been made. He was told TWO MONTHS LATER that he had to have fire insurance on the condo...and a $40,000 life insurance policy with them as first insured...in order to grant the mortgage. He has now spent the last 10 days in Panama pursuing these insurance policies...had them delivered to the bank one week ago...and still no release of funds. He figures it has now cost him an additional $1500 in time and travel costs to secure this $10,000 loan on a $160,000 bay-front condo in Panama and of course repents ever starting this process. In fact, he is so annoyed with Panama's lack of service and basic ethics in business that I know where you can buy a nice furnished bay-front condo for $160,000.
Now a short word about the "Legal" profession in Panama. I have a list of 20+ lawyers and/or firms that I have had direct experience with in Panama...and there are only 2 that I would still speak to or recommend. Even then, my recommendation would be based on WHAT services one would need legally, because the best lawyers specialize in something, whether it be immigration, corporations, taxation, criminal law, etc. Any one that tells you they can handle ALL your legal needs is misrepresenting themselves and just out to fleece you for every dollar they can get. The other rule is "pay as you go". Do not pay retainers or more than a token deposit towards a legal pursuit...because in most cases they will take your money and go on vacation or put you at the bottom of some pile that a "clerk" is supposed to get to sometime this year. If you are lucky enough to find an attorney who executes quickly, pay them on time and keep them close by as your best friend...because that is the only way you will get legal recourse in a reasonable period of time. Oh...and the attorney needs to be well connected politically at all levels to adequately service you...at the executive, judicial and legislative government levels. Again I say, in Panama and throughout Latin America, it's not WHAT you know, but WHO you know that counts in getting things done in banking or "lawyering". I also have to add that the USA system really works on the same basis if you think about it for a minute. Connections or having money means everything for getting things done quickly and efficiently...
And finally, a summary on services in Panama. Both Panama and Costa Rica overstate their capabilities and cultures related to tourism and service. There are some beautiful places to go and amazing things to see and do in these countries, but don't assume just any agency or tour guide is going to assure you a good and safe time. Very low percentages of these populations speak anything but Spanish...and their desire or initiative to learn or expand their horizons are overall non existent. There are reasons why repeat tourism to these countries is very low. Most people here don't know how to say "please" or "thank-you" in the discourse of service. Many will tell you they are "trying" or "wanting" to learn English or learn a trade or skill to improve their life potential, but a very small percentage actually take ACTION on their dream or goal. This is primarily because a majority in this culture WORK to LIVE...not LIVE to WORK. I see very little pride taken in service or professions at least at the lower income levels in Panama and elsewhere in the region. Sure, you can find excellent and inexpensive health-care, first world shopping malls, and many fine bars and restaurants. But only a small percentage will have what I would term "world class service mentality". Its unfortunately just not part of their culture or educational systems...yet.
To end on a positive note, I would say that while being a bit backward and lazy, the general Panamanian culture is moving SLOWLY towards raising the standard of living and service mentality for all. There are many new real estate projects and homes for the middle and lower classes in addition to a myriad of high priced luxury homes for the global elite. There is movement by the new administration to level the playing field of opportunity to all classes of people and to get some checks and balances put on the ever present corruption and misappropriation of funds in government. But, I have to be honest and suggest not to expect change very quickly. It is going to take 2-3 more generations to majorly impact the service mentality in Panama...and they are going to have to focus on educating the very young...because in Panama you just can't "teach an old dog new tricks"...