Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Drug War and the DEA

Happy New Year everyone. I might have a New Year blog to write over the weekend...but meanwhile I continue to see the topic of "prohibition" and the most costly and failing world-wide war against "drugs" as one of the key issues of our times.

Better than the article linked above is the first "comment" to that article by "malcolmkyle". Since I could not write a better opinion myself...I just chose to copy here for your reference:

Prohibition is a sickening horror and the ocean of hypocrisy, incompetence, corruption and human wreckage it has left in its wake is almost endless.

Prohibition has decimated generations and criminalized millions for a behavior which is entwined in human existence, and for what other purpose than to uphold the defunct and corrupt thinking of a minority of misguided, self-righteous Neo-Puritans and degenerate demagogues who wish nothing but unadulterated destruction on the rest of us.

Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use, among all echelons of society, is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time, any serious reading on the subject of past attempts at any form of drug prohibition would point most normal thinking people in the direction of sensible regulation.

By its very nature, prohibition cannot fail but create a vast increase in criminal activity, and rather than preventing society from descending into anarchy, it actually fosters an anarchic business model - the international Drug Trade. Any decisions concerning quality, quantity, distribution and availability are then left in the hands of unregulated, anonymous and ruthless drug dealers, who are interested only in the huge profits involved. Thus the allure of this reliable and lucrative industry, with it's enormous income potential that consistently outweighs the risks associated with the illegal operations that such a trade entails, will remain with us until we are collectively forced to admit the obvious.

There is therefore an irrefutable connection between drug prohibition and the crime, corruption, disease and death it causes. Anybody 'halfway bright', and who's not psychologically challenged, should be capable of understanding that it is not simply the demand for drugs that creates the mayhem, it is our refusal to allow legal businesses to meet that demand. If you are not capable of understanding this connection then maybe you're using something far stronger than the rest of us. So put away your pipe, lock yourself away in a small room with some tinned soup and water, and try to crawl back into reality A.S.A.P.

Because Drug cartels will always have an endless supply of ready cash for wages, bribery and equipment, no amount of tax money, police powers, weaponry, wishful thinking or pseudo-science will make our streets safe again. Only an end to prohibition can do that! How much longer are you willing to foolishly risk your own survival by continuing to ignore the obvious, historically confirmed solution?

If you support the Kool-Aid mass suicide cult of prohibition, and erroneously believe that you can win a war without logic and practical solutions, then prepare yourself for even more death, tortured corpses, corruption, terrorism, sickness, imprisonment, economic tribulation, unemployment and the complete loss of the rule of law.

"A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."
Abraham Lincoln

The only thing prohibition successfully does is prohibit regulation & taxation while turning even our schools and prisons into black markets for drugs. Regulation would mean the opposite!

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare; if you support it you must be either ignorant, stupid, brainwashed, insane or corrupt.
While I share these sentiments, I understand why so many Americans support our government's spin on this issue. Drugs and other forms of addiction...including food and prescription drugs...are killing tens of thousands every year in the USA alone...and we want "big brother" to take responsibility for it. We are the biggest consumers of drugs both legal and non by far on a per capita basis. As long as we have this prohibition and focus only on the symptoms of our addictions and the black market suppliers to them...we will continue wasting billions of dollars annually through government and military operations that could be better invested elsewhere.  This war has been more futile and expensive than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

I know many will think I am a total conspiracy theorist...but I still believe...and with recent Wikileaks publishers proving it more...that governments have used this "war on drugs" to further push their military agenda and dominance over "the people" on a grand scale. The "DEA" has basically supplanted the "CIA" as the largest infiltrators of foreign governments and soil. Big government has used the fears of terrorists and our "addictions" to convince us that they alone can provide for our "safety and tranquility" through bigger/newer bureaucracies of government and military might. Constitutional limitations of federal governments and courts have been thrown out the window of expediency. I fear this momentum has gone so far down the fast lane that it might never be recoverable for the side of constitutional law. 

I am fully convinced that if these "illicit" drugs were made and regulated in the USA like all other drugs...taxed and controlled...there would be less of this drug "sub culture" controlling so many of our fellow citizens. There would be more money for education, addiction clinics...and all these foreign "narcos" would be out of business or at least limited to competing as a foreign importer. At least they would have to compete on a market basis against legitimately produced domestic drugs of choice.

While in general I agree that most of these drugs are very harmful to humanity (along with cigarettes, alcohol and "McDonalds" type food fare) seems quite obvious to me that as the commentator above has stated so eloquently..."Based on the unalterable proviso that drug use, among all echelons of society, is essentially an unstoppable and ongoing human behavior which has been with us since the dawn of time" is time we regulated versus prohibited "the people" from having what they want. If they do harm while "high"...they should be prosecuted heavily. To incarcerate them simply for escaping their own realities or pain is NOT a humane thing to do. That my friends is not for us to judge. "There but by the grace of God go I"...

Prohibition basically just makes the criminals and governments the expense of the taxpayer and drug user. You don't see the connection?  No supply. It's so simple as to be invisible to current day leaders of our institutions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Found...Jesus' great-grandmother

Every week or so I run across a headline or article in the media that makes me laugh or brings out the maximum irony. Today was one of those discoveries...the headline read "Great Grand-mom of Jesus Identified".

My immediate reaction was "wow, they can't find "Osama bin Laden", but they found the great-grandmother of Jesus"? In fact, last I knew they haven't even found the remains of Jesus yet...who was a much more famous person.

From there my mind went spinning to the question "how would you identify or prove the linkage of such a find to the historical Jesus?"  Would DNA testing somehow prove lineage? But would need Jesus' "DNA" in order to match that up as well, right?  Beyond that, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was born of a "Virgin" Mary...and is the "Son of God" once again, how would that make Mary's grand-mother Jesus' great-grandmother?

I know, I know...many of you friends and family of religious persuasion are going to start shaking your mental finger at me before I make a total mockery of the faith. That truly is not my intention. My real point here is how sensationalistic and frivolous much of our modern day media has become...especially pertaining to religion. This was underscored after I read the full article and started connecting the dots of this ludicrous conjecture.

Some interesting quotes from the article that help us put this "news" into context...
"Medieval legends suggest that Ismeria, a descendent of the tribe of King David, was the grandmother of the Virgin Mary". Ok, so this story reported as almost FACT is sourced from Medieval (15th 1500 years AD) legends (a nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical). GREAT source.

"According to the legend, Ismeria then goes to a hospital where...she is said to perform a miracle, filling a shell with fish to feed all of the hospital's patients." Isn't this a direct rip off of Mark's "gospel" writing of Jesus' feeding the multitudes with "two loaves and five fishes"? I guess he must have learned that one from his "grandmother".

"...the author of the Ismeria legend remains unknown". Ok...that's a great source for your story.
I bring all this up because I can now clearly expect a new Christian cult to arise who are devoted to "Ismeria", a new patron saint, and eternal "great-grandmother of God". My problem with this is that it is non-factual "historical" arguments or "legends" like these that continue to fuel the polarization of world populations over issues of "faith" being "that which is hoped for...the evidence of things unseen". They are right...this would take a huge leap of faith...yet thousands of "believers" will be once again sidetracked by another speculative legend that will be interpreted as "literal" truth. This to me does not encourage "faith" undermines it and makes religion more of an aberration than it already is in most cases. 

In this matter, I must agree with the Guatama Buddha - “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Killing the Messenger

My how quickly "Cyberwars" escalate. This outing of hacked information from Wikileaks of the US government has certainly created a firestorm of conflicts being played out in all forms of media, governmental spy rings and has created one of the biggest "chess games" ever battled in cyberspace for distribution of information.

I have had a number of interesting discussions and exchanges of email on this subject in recent days. It is interesting to note that most "Americans" are siding up with their government on this issue in criminalization of  these "leaks"...and many foreigners are siding up with Wikileaks. This to me is another "sign" of how isolated our USA thinking is on a mass scale per global perspectives. Even "Pravda", Russia's leading news outfit, has now accused the USA of total hypocrisy when it comes to "freedom of information" and the press. Ouch...Russia preaching to US!

Many of us may have an "I don't care", blind patriotic position on this issue. I know I am personally struggling on this issue between freedoms and "patriotism". I am embarrassed for my country as I stated in my last blog on this subject...but I am also angry at many of the things "we" have done in recent and also long term history of our nation.

As my grandfather always used to say, "Be sure your sin will always find you out". The sad thing here is that the most powerful government in the world is being exposed for many heinous attitudes and actions taken "behind the scenes". Many of our "leaders" have written and expressed positions that they never thought would be exposed publicly. What is sad about this situation is that nobody is saying the information being distributed is FALSE. A person and a company is being persecuted globally...for distributing "truth". What a difference a day makes... Will people die or be exposed to foreign "powers"? I have seen no documented incidents so far...and I hope not. Yet, when people take on such roles with "nations", they probably understand the risks and are often in those roles for some pretty selfish reasons (money, adventure, power).

Regarding the "morality" of Wikileaks actions, what is so different about this situation than's exposure of "Watergate" or the Iran Contra affair? We gave awards and accolades for those who so intently exposed governmental criminality and coverups. What about "Whitewater" and other shenanigans? People were killed (or took their own lives?) over many of those revelations.

Lets remember that at the founding of the USA, many esteemed "revolutionaries" were killed for stealing and disseminating "governmental" orders or documents to the constituents of that former British colony. Damn that Paul Revere for riding around and warning everyone that "The British are coming"! That was a state secret. If we are paying off Karzai in Afghanistan and other leaders worldwide in order to "do our bidding"...I want to know about it. That's MY money going to despicable opportunists and power mongers.

Change is normally driven from the top...based on demands from the bottom or outside. While Wikileaks obviously is based on info that is not owned by them...our governments steal, distort and extort others based on espionage and spying all the time. It seems quite hypocritical they should be criminalizing their own behavior...but of course it is common for governments to have a different set of standards than they impose on the governed. Nothing will change until the masses decide to do something about this international carnage and quit believing the governmental hype at all levels. These governments should be APOLOGIZING...not rationalizing. Its time for confessions and forgiveness...and then "sinning no more".
I truly believe positive change will come from this global incident. Yes, it is embarrassing and further weakens the "moralistic" posturing of my country. Yet, the sooner we realize our political immoralities and misguided actions...the sooner we can turn things around with honesty and transparency. It is about time we had more of that.
Hating Mr Assange is like hating the person who tells you they saw your spouse cheating on you. You may hate the idea that THEY know;  you might question their reasons for telling you; but you might be further ahead to no longer place blind trust in that partner.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

President Bush, Rick Warren and "The Good Book",0,4450383.story 

 A friend invited me to view last night's "Civil Forum on Leadership" online in real time from Saddleback Church  featuring former President George W Bush and Pastor Rick Warren. This event was basically designed to promote/sell Mr. Bush' new book. While it was an intriguing almost 90 minute interview between Bush and Warren...I came away sincerely troubled by much of the attitude and quite a bit of the content that was communicated. This "forum" to me illustrated the worst of combined politics and religion...a combination that in my opinion has turned lethal and led the USA into a modern day version of "The Crusades" ...only THIS version of Crusade could turn nuclear in a heartbeat.

I truly don't wish this blog to be considered taking political sides. My observations would have been the same if President Obama or a Libertarian candidate would have been featured in such a manner. I imagine both men mean well in what they are trying to communicate and the leadership they are trying to inspire. At the same time, in my opinion the basis for their leadership and reasoning in so many things were unfounded, "un-Biblical" and lacking sensitivity and respect for the THOUSANDS of lives lost due to these political decisions and under their watch.

Here is my honest summary of the telecast I sent to my friend via email:

  I caught all but the first 20-30 minutes. Nice to see the ex Pres in a more relaxed and contemplative setting and being more candid on certain things. I'm sure he is sincere and real about most of the things/stories he shared. I'm sure Laura is a wonderful lady. I still think if a rich man will find it so hard to enter the "Kingdom of Heaven", it will be twice as hard for a politician. (Of course you understand I am speaking "tongue in cheek").

It was somewhat nauseating to me the "good ole boy", backslapping approach Ricky took towards the former President.  These people in my opinion are "trivializing" the risks of our country and the deaths of THOUSANDS that took place under their watch.  There should be more solemnity...and yes APOLOGIES...for much that happened instead of trying to make each other out to be "God's modern day Messiahs". I'm sick of this pseudo religious posturing. Much of it is bad theology from my Biblical studies of many years. This is the worst marriage between bad politics and "syrupy" religion...

I still come away from this interview feeling that Bush Jr had much less intellect, class and grace than his father. I also think his father for all his "intellect, class and grace"...was guilty of some pretty heinous decisions and involvements going back as far as CIA directorship days and as the "hatchet man" for Reagan during the Iran Contra scandals...arming Iran and making a lot of USA enemies in Nicaragua and the rest of LatAm. While intentions may have been reasonable in their minds...the morals for many of those actions and international intervention are what we are now paying a price for in our country. I do not view these guys as "holy" men of faith. Sorry. Their theology goes to about the first grade level.

My biggest disappointment overall in life is not seeing more "leaders" of great intellect and moral character. I'm not talking about blowjobs in the oval office. I am talking about abiding by the constitution and voluntarily limiting powers and being honest and open with the electorate. "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" (Bush was basically honest enough to admit that and to his "ego" during this program).  I unfortunately feel and observe that all of these former USA leaders are in some regards corrupted by their power and tradeoffs they have made to get where they went...

Terms like "Good Book" and the "man upstairs" used so much by Bush and others are terms bred by "American style" Christianity. These terms to me are irreverent, basically secular vernacular. It seems to me the "Muslims" take their religion much more seriously/solemnly and for that reason are a growing tide in the world more than the Christian faith. Christianity has lost its "salt" and become just another "religion".

The final scary thought for me last night was that this tide of commentary and attitude expressed is the growing consensus in American consciousness. Rah rah patriotism tied to claims of "God's guidance" have put our country in a bad position globally...both economically and politically. In response to their own problems, the "powers that be" are passing more laws and regulations to control the tide of American's funds and thought process.  This week you have seen the unprecedented shutdown of over 70 internet sites by the government without due process of law. After the fact they are trying to ram through legislation giving them legal support to do so when there are so many legal opinions that this is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, you can also see many of these lying political leaders shaking in their boots at the "Wikileaks" outing of their documents and communications that obviously won't line up with the political and media spin given to the general public on these recently catastrophic war activities. If you have studied Nazism in the 30s, these types of actions should bring tremendous fear to any true American's mind.

Perhaps the perfect conclusion for this blog is a news clipping sent to me today via email which I about 90% agree with...

Monday, November 29, 2010

The matter of Wikileaks

The situation of our Government's panic over the "Wikileaks" emergency where millions of supposedly "secret" documents and communications hacked from our "secure" government databases are being released semi-publicly provokes a number of reactions. I think it time for a little "family discussion" amongst us Americans to understand the real issues and how we should respond to them.

I approach this situation like a "family matter" where someone outside the family is spreading all the family secrets and dirty laundry for all our neighbors and community members to see...and it is aggressive and unpleasant. Personally I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I want my family's (country) honor maintained and be PROUD to be an "American"...yet I also want to know what it is that is so dangerous to my fellow countrymen and allies. Part of me wants to know about our family's dirty dark secrets...while another part of me just wants to stay childlike and trusting of my parents (government).

Unfortunately, for me it is very hard to be trusting of my "parents" in recent decades. It seems that they are broke financially and have been sending a lot of money to unknown "foreigners" or strangers to the detriment of the family's financial security. They also have been wanting to know more and more of my private business and controlling my behaviors and morals while they themselves seem not too bound by many of those same "rules". They have been using my "college trust fund" (social security) for decades for other purposes while leaving promissory notes for only part of the funds that have disappeared. Some of my parents (Congressmen) work 2-4 years and receive lifelong pensions and insurance benefits that I have to work 40+ years to carry them and myself. They allow my foreign cousins (British, Scandinavian, Indian, etc) to come and work in our home country for the same money without having to contribute to the rent and living costs at the same rate I do. Every time I leave or return home, my parents pat me down as if they don't know me and treat me as a common criminal because they don't seem to recognize my credentials. I get treated with more respect by the neighbors than I do my "parents".

Now it appears the family name and all our network of friends throughout the world is in danger because of letters and messages our parents have sent over the years describing things they have done that even to this day I don't know about. They have held all this information from me all my life and yet now they are warning me that this information...which I still don't know about...will harm me and them for a long time to come.  It will somehow be a reflection on all of us...and yet I apparently have no right to know the details of that which I am supposed to fear.

So, I say to my "parents"..."I love you and my home, but if you want me to stand behind you in this matter or worse yet perhaps FIGHT for the family's'd better start telling me what is going on. If I am too "young" to know, then I am probably too young to fight your battles. Plus, if you don't start letting me keep more of my allowance, I will probably be less content or passionate about your problems and be more rebellious to your wishes. I will probably just stay here in the dark and "hope" you somehow restore the family's honor. I think it will be very sad to read about all your private "sins" or questionable moralities that might not match up to what you have forced ME to abide by all my life from someone outside the family. It will be very embarrassing for me when asked about these things (should they be as bad as you are suggesting) to simply say "I didn't know" or "I'm sorry". That should be YOUR role, not mine."

To summarize...the role of government is to represent the PEOPLE's wishes and viewpoints. It is obvious to me that concept has gone out the window for most of our legislators. If these "Wikileaks" are as bad as everyone seems to be braced for...I for one will be holding my own government and fellow Americans who elected them accountable for what truths come out. Its up to each of us "family members" to pursue that which is right and punish those who do wrong.  Wrong is matter who is doing it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Travel Pananoia

Flight travel post 9/11 has become very hazardous and laborious, especially for USA based passengers. As is often the case, reactions turn into over reactions...often times without foundation or reason. This seems to be happening on both sides of the travel security equation. Governmental security continues to over react to many perceived terrorist threats, while travelers often over react to new processes put in place to secure the general travel public's safety.

The most recent illustration of this phenomenon is the John Tyner pat down case in San Diego. According to the Youtube taping of the incident by him, he refused the machine scan process and chose the optional "pat down" method...but took exception when they said they would be touching his genital area. When told by a supervisor who was called into the situation that he could submit to the process...or leave and not fly today...he chose the later. He was escorted by TSA and police to an American Airlines counter who refunded his non-refundable ticket. During that process, TSA management with the police came back and asked him to resubmit himself for the screening or basically be charged criminally on some sort of code that they didn't seem to mention. Apparently those charges have been filed with an $10,000 fine attached. Now Mr Tyner and other citizens are going more public with their fight against this perceived governmental tyranny.

Personally I see paranoia and over reaction on both sides of this conflict. I think the general public wants security to be thorough and secure the people who are allowed to travel with them. I would rather go through the scanner machine than to be physically patted down...yet many people, apparently including the pilots union...are paranoid about over exposure to that technology for health reasons. I supposed if I had to be scanned multiple times every day, I might have the same concerns. I don't have that concern for occasional flying. If someone doesn't want to go through that machine, then pat downs make sense somewhat. Yet, I think the genital touching is going overboard on that front as well.

My biggest disconnect with the TSA approach is their "randomness" approach of who they pull aside for more thorough examination...and on the other hand their paranoia about "profiling" people. This has never made sense to me. If your typical "terrorist" is of Arab decent and between the ages of 18-40...I don't "get" pulling American retirees in wheelchairs over to one side for a "pat down" or sniff test. With today's access to technology and ID verification...these people should be screened and risk levels accessed on each passenger long before they even reach the airport. The Israelis do this and they seem to have a much better record of controls on flying terrorists. They also are not afraid of "profiling" the bad guys.

Unfortunately, many of us normal citizens are now getting paranoid about traveling and the overt governmental presence and oversight of our lives. 9/11 caused in my opinion an over reaction on the government's part in suspending many privacy rights and freedoms granted by our constitution. The "Patriot Act" was supposed to be a "temporary powers" type of bill that has somehow turned into a permanent contract with our government powers. We are rightly paranoid when our government can arrest or search us without due cause or process of law. Many of the attitudes and tactics being used by our government are reminiscent of the "Gestapo" tactics of the Nazi era. They used many of the same justifications and stirring of paranoia to gain the upper hand over mass civilians in limiting their rights and freedoms. Travel is now just another extension of overstepping governmental regulation into our way of life.

Thanks to the immediacy of internet media we are now seeing natural balance and access of well as disinformation...being distributed to the masses. Hopefully this will help us find a balance of what is acceptable between government actions and the constituents they serve. We need balance and reason instead of over reactions and manipulation of emotions. We want our governments to get the bad guys without making us all suspected criminals. The problem is that at the end of the day "humans" are on each side of these conflicts. Humans run our government bureaucracies. Humans run the airlines and travel agencies. And of course, the general public is full of humans. All are imperfect and we all need to work together to arrive at the balanced common good.

I am convinced most disconnects in this dynamic is based on egos and human pride. All the role players in the San Diego pat down incident to me are so representative of the various factions in this "play". You have the systematic messaging and direction given by particular TSA "worker bees"...who when faced with a John Q Public that doesn't agree to the process calls over a manager of bigger ego. When that person doesn't succeed in getting compliance from the citizen...they make it into a scene with uniformed police escort away from the "security area". The worst part of the TSA reaction was when they brought in the "suit" management guy who is determined to "win the argument" and "complete the process" whether the civilian likes it or the threat of criminalization and hefty fine. That was way over the top and too authoritarian a position for a "public servant" to take on. You are there to get "terrorists"...not turn a citizen into a candidate for being one. STUPID.

The overarching sadness for me in this "dance" is that all sides are playing roles that perpetuate the problem. The more authoritarian governmental entities become, the more rebellious become various sectors of citizenry. This has the potential of pushing more and more bystanders into the side of the "terrorists". It's kind of like the psychological aspect where if you accuse someone of being a criminal or treat them like one long enough...they will start acting on the notion. It is negative psychology on the grandest of scales.

I hope all the publicity on this issue affects reason and brings positive change for travelers as we approach the holiday travel season. Meanwhile, I will try to reduce chances of conflicts with the "authorities" as much as possible while traveling. I will probably chose the machine over the pat down...and dress as little like a terrorist as possible, including leaving the wheelchair at home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why no one invades Switzerland

This video underscores one of the reasons Switzerland has little history of invasion and a very low crime rate. As the Swiss gentleman in the video says towards the end..."the key to freedom is to be able to defend yourself".

My fellow Panama blogger Sam Taliaferro posted this video with his comments about Panama passing new gun restriction laws. I agree with his sentiments. I continue to get alarmed that world governments in general are trying to disarm their citizens...while at the same time producing more weapons for "the State" than ever before.

In an ideal world or would not need firearms unless you hunted for survival food and clothing. But as long as so much of the world continues as the old "wild wild west" of crime and is a foolish notion to take all armaments out of the hands of the law abiding.

I prefer Switzerland's model where they train their citizens in firearm safety and how to shoot. I believe in having harsh laws against those who use firearms in a crime...yet I still believe the best deterrent to crime is being prepared with equal or superior "force" in your personal space. Governments that don't support this approach in my opinion are suspect in their motivation. If they are the government OF the majority of the people...why should they be afraid of armed constituents? I understand taking guns from outlaws and convicted felons...but not law abiding citizens. At least in true constitutional republics or democracies...this should NOT be an issue.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Day

Tomorrow brings a new mid term election in the USA. There seems to be a quiet acceptance that the "Republicans" will be taking over in Congressional leadership capacity. Personally I'm not sure it will make much difference who controls congress as a majority of congressmen in recent decades seem to me more "self" or "special interest" serving than to their "constituents".

I personally have the following core sentiments regarding this (and all recent) election:

While having lost faith in most of our political leaders, here is hoping tomorrow's elections in the USA brings forth more TRUE leaders who will represent their CONSTITUENTS versus "special interests" or party "platforms". I support any candidate (Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, or Liberal) who stands for a strong Constitutional government with limited roles their constitution grants them. Their role is primarily to defend our borders and EVERY citizen's rights to privacy and the individual pursuit of peace, prosperity and happiness. Lets call it a return to "freedom and justice for ALL".

Another interesting quote that struck a chord with me today on the populace and politics...

"I think we have gone through a period when too many children and people have been given to understand "I have a problem, it is the Government's job to cope with it!" or "I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!" "I am homeless, the Government must house me!" and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing! There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people and people look to themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then also to help look after our neighbour and life is a reciprocal business and people have got the entitlements too much in mind without the obligations..." Margaret Thatcher, 23 September 1987

Here's to hoping some Constitutional "freedom lovers" make it into office tomorrow. It's up to you America...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

History of the Bible

As fundamentalists of all persuasions swear allegiance to their God as revealed in "holy texts", it is important to understand the nature and content of these texts in order to understand the role of religion as it plays out in humanity's daily dysfunctions.

Now, before anybody gets too defensive here, I am NOT discussing the existence or role of God in the world. That is a whole other, BIG subject. I also am not writing this to discourage anyone from having faith or a belief system. What I AM bringing to the front here is the basis upon which faith should be built.

For those of you who might not know me, I come from a background steeped in fundamental Christianity. We were heavily influenced from our family tradition to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the Bible as the "the Word of God", infallible and literal. Post childhood I studied various other religions and found myself confronted as an educated adult with many contradictions to my upbringing...and while I continue to "believe" in God and the historical Jesus...I count myself as a "recovering evangelical" when it comes to my new understanding of things (I define "recovering Evangelical as "those outside the church who still like Jesus". See this website for further interesting links).

Probably the core disconnect I had with the traditions I grew up in was the concept of the Bible as "infallible" and EVERY WORD being sacred and directed by God...or his Holy Spirit. As a child I had read the Bible through 2-3 times by the time I was 8-9 years old. It was very educational, challenging and to this day affects my way of thinking and world view...mostly based on the history and perspectives on life the ancient book contains. I can still quote or "paraphrase" with the best of lay evangelicals...but I rarely do anymore as I reached a point in life where I refused to use the "Bible" in theological discourse. This is primarily because "the book" has been the great lightening rod of division and misunderstanding between humans and civilizations for hundreds of years now. My fundamental enlightenment on this was at the point where I realized a "New Testament" was never ordained nor suggested by the founder of Christianity, Jesus. He said many times to listen to "my words" as truth or "do as I do", but I don't think he envisioned the "gospel" writers or the "Pauline letters" as literal revelation from "God the father" himself. Such are the stark realities of religious progression.

Unfortunately, the Christian faith...and other fundamental faiths such as Judaism and Islam...have turned into fundamental adherence to "holy books". The founders of these religions or books are long gone...and now in their place many of us worship "a book". While I understand that written words are powerful...more powerful in the long term than armaments of is very scary when the hordes of mankind are fundamentally guided...and often MIS texts written hundreds of years before whose authenticity can be questioned from many perspectives.

While I studied this topic heavily at one point in my early 20s, I find that wikipedia has a pretty good high level overview on the history of the Bible. It seems reasonable to me that you have to study books ABOUT the Bible in order to understand its contents and history...and to qualify your "belief" in the "good book". To that end...I offer a few "Bible facts" to help illustrate my thesis:

"The Hebrew bible is not a single book but rather a collection of texts, most of them anonymous, and most of them the product of more or less extensive editing prior to reaching their modern form." Deductive reasoning might suggest that "anonymous" equates to "divine" writings?

It was in fact the birth of geology, marked by the publication of James Hutton's "Theory of the Earth" in 1788, which set in train the intellectual revolution that would dethrone Genesis as the ultimate authority on primeval earth and prehistory. The first casualty was the Creation story itself, and by the early 1800s "no responsible scientist contended for the literal credibility of the Mosaic account of creation." (p. 224)

Many scholars have pointed out that the Gospel of Mark shows signs of a lack of knowledge of geographical, political and religious matters in Palestine in the time of Jesus. Thus, today the most common opinion is, that the author is unknown and both geographically and historically at a distance to the narrated events. On the other hand, the other narratives are said to have relied on the Gospel of Mark as source.

The Bible as we know it today came from a variety of "Canons"...a term coined by early Christians but rooted in Judaism...meaning "rule" or "measure". These canons or measures have changed numerous times over the centuries and as I have learned about this for me has brought to issue the question of The Bible being "God's infallible word"...or is the book simply a complicated agreement between large bodies of religious leaders who determine for us what IS the "word of God"? There are various canons of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches adopted by ecumenical councils who have determined what is in our currently published "Bible". It is increasingly troubling for me to base life and facts on such publication.

Obviously volumes of theological works have been devoted to the history of the Bible and one cannot begin to discuss or mention all these studies in a blog. All I can say is, after 35+ years of analyzing and studying this issue at various times and places...I cannot base my faith or "world view" on such a canon of writings. I realize that MY reality disappoints many close family members and friends whom I hold dear...yet as Shakespeare so eloquently stated..."to thine own self be true".

My personal odyssey and revelation tells me that I must stay rational and objective about "truth" and my beliefs in this life. While I strive to respect differing points of view and stay objective on all issues...there comes a point in each person's life when they have to make their own "call" on these heavy issues. I for one cannot base my life and beliefs on simple "leaps of faith"...or just believe something because "I WANT TO BELIEVE IT" or those before me did so nor for peer pressure.

I DO believe that somehow God set life in motion as we know it. I doubt we will ever totally know or comprehend who God is, why or to what end he has set these things in motion. I believe in a "personal God" to the extent that I can imagine the originator of life being somewhere in my genetics and my consciousness. I see "miracles" every day...yet to some levels of consciousness, those miracles may be a very natural order of the universe. Fundamentally, I think we need to stop making God "in our own image" or trying to make him into a "personal possession". To me, this is the ultimate "blasphemy".

We have much to ponder and mysteries to solve in this life. It is the "pursuit" of this that makes life meaningful to me. We don't have to have all the answers. Let us use our reason and rationale as much as possible to do so...and even if we come to different points of view or beliefs between us...let us just consider them so...and not the end of the world or our relationship to one another. We humans are mutually dependent...and our own worse enemies based on some of our "blind" beliefs on books we read.

As was the motto written in big letters above the altar of my dear Pastor/grandfather's church..." by this shall all men know that you are my disciples...if you have LOVE for one another" (John 13:35)... this continues as my core "theology".

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Controlling Drugs

After reading the obit of one of America's leading experts on the history of drugs in America, David Musto, it reminded me of many observations and articles read over the years on this subject. I have alluded in other blog posts to some of my viewpoints on the "drug war" my country is losing and the monies wasted in the wrong directions...but I have not clarified my thoughts in writing on drugs overall.

One of my fundamental disagreements with the world-wide "drug wars" is that YOU CAN'T LEGISLATE MORALITY FOR ANY SIGNIFICANT PERIOD OF TIME! During my relatively short lifetime, we have seen TRILLIONS of dollars spent trying to control the supply of what are deemed "illegal" or "illicit" drugs...with much of that money coming from heavy "sin" taxes on "legal" drugs/substances such as tobacco and alcohol...which substances kill hundreds of thousands of people every YEAR! Most of us have seen people close to us affected or dying from using these substances, yet...they remain legal while substances such as Marijuana...which have scientifically been proven to have medicinal properties for some diseases...remain taboo and illegal. My opinion is, if you are going to legislate limits on one harmful substance, you need to put limits on all. But of course, prohibition never worked and will never work. And lets face it...SOME companies and rich families make a LOT of money on those products/substances in worldwide distribution.

In addition to the societal costs of fighting global "underground" suppliers to our addictions...we continue to criminalize the sick and demented addicts among us...without getting to the root of the cause. Our institutions just drive many of these forces and appetites underground which has now established huge resources and revenues that will never be documented or enter mainstream commerce. We have created two economies...and two macro classes in our global population; traditional/formal markets and underground/informal markets. Global economies cannot be truly measured without taking into account those informal markets.

PRIMAL MESSAGE: We will never eradicate the supply if we don't affect the demand.

In my broad travels and experiences in life, I have observed many aspects of the "drug dilemma" fairly close and personal through some people close to me. Substances from alcohol to Marijuana to "prescription narcotics" to harder drugs have affected the personal lives of many potentially great people who have been in my path. That makes it a very personal and emotional issue by nature. Anyone I have known who overcame addictions did so by PERSONAL CHOICE, not by edict or legal decree. Even legislated drug treatment programs mandated by a court on someone are a waste of time if THAT PERSON is not ready to change their lives and actions. Some of the most obvious hypocrisies I have seen on this issue are "blasted" cocktailers spewing forth about putting "druggies" in jail. It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

I grew up in the late 60s and early 70s when "illicit drugs" and "free love" became more mainstream aspects of American culture. The boomer generation and large economic growth of those times fueled a consumerism that was insatiable. With new wealth and independence came new levels of greed, debauchery...and people began discovering how money and freedom alone does not bring happiness. As people began to express their "freedom" and "success" by throwing out many cultural taboos and traditions...individualism became more rampant and the rule of law in governments and religions were questioned and/or disregarded by the growing multitudes. Individuals were allowed to explore their natures and had the economic freedom to do so. With this new wealth and boredom came the tendency to "medicate" both legally and illegally any ache, pain or depression we were experiencing. Have a headache? Pop an aspirin. Pulled muscle or back spasms? Pop a big dose of Ibuprofen or some sort of steroid. Feeling depressed? Here...take the latest version of psychotic drug recommended by your psychiatrist. The problem with all this "cause and effect" was that these substances taken over a long period of time can kill us by affecting other organs as side affects...and often taking medications only cover up "symptoms" of a real problem or health defect. What is the morality of that? Even after adjusting for inflation, we now spend as much on health care every 10 days as we did in the entire year of 1950. That's the cost of drugs for ya...

As I now look back to those times (60s-70s), I begin to see the roots of current political and religious realities. Forgive me if I am too "general" in some of my comments for the sake of brevity and blogspace...but drugs has for me become the main "battle ground" for the cultural wars in our society. There are also a number of ironies that to me are so obvious...

The more society's institutions try and place dogmatic controls on the behaviors of its members, the more various factions go in extreme opposite directions. Most humans/individuals have the constant battle between what they WANT to do as individuals and what is ACCEPTED by their peers and fellow members of society. Some of us obviously stray more independently than others.

Dr. Musto's work also pointed out "...the close correlation, historically, between public outrage over certain drugs and their use by feared or hated minorities." This governmental "war on drugs" has become a "class war" and against the people themselves...not the drugs or addiction. This is most evident when you see poor black or minority young men incarcerated for years for possession or sales of drugs...while rich and "pretty" white actresses who are repeat offenders serve no more than a few hours of a few MONTHS conviction. I am a white person who is enraged by this lack of uniform justice in my home country.

This is a huge subject I know...but I think the macros can be summed up quite easily. The "war on drugs" by all statistics has been a failure...BECAUSE...with all the trillions spent we still have more and more addicts, pushers and kids BUYING the stuff...both legal and non-legal substances. And while they succeeded in reducing the drug supply chain in has only been replaced and multiplied in Mexico which is almost in a state of anarchism as the money and supply has been pushed CLOSER to the users by this drug war. Ridiculous!

I know many people who come to Latin America and elsewhere to load up on "legal" prescription drugs without prescriptions and are as "addicted" to them as any heroin addict. The false morality of this is huge. Just because drugs...or alcohol...or tobacco are legal doesn't mean you have license to destroy your health with them. To this end...ALL drugs should be legal and controlled by society for societies sake. This would take most of the drugs off THE STREET and put them in pharmacies or clinics where they belong. People should not be convicted for using them, but for losing control on them. If someone wants to OD, it is their privilege and personal responsibility regarding that possibility. If they affect or damage someone else while out of control...that is when institutions of society should step in to protect victims and the rest of society.

It is my fundamental belief that if government and religion put the same amount of money and effort into helping educate and treat the USERS of drugs...including warnings about the legal prescriptions of synthetic drugs that are killing many people... the war on drugs could be turned around. Yet, I fear there are many dark forces behind the scenes that are quite happy having the war as it is. Ongoing, never ending churning of funds through their grimy big hands/accounts that perpetuate the cycle of devastation and destruction...mostly to the poor and minorities who some people want to keep minimalized. And lets face it...drugs also keep the rich and beautiful aloof to what is really going on as well.

Final quote from THIS LINK...

"One of the defining characteristics of the drug war is politician’s ignoring expert findings and providing demagogic enforcement measures to placate idiot & ignorant voters. And never, ever, EVER considering de-criminalizing and harm reduction allied to social reform."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gods Work or Human Error?

This article today hits home on another modern day moral dilemma. Are "test tube babies" meddling from man, or an extension of "Gods work"?

Obviously the Pope and other religious leaders have come down against such meddling from man in what is considered God's unique handiwork...the forming of a unique life.

As for me, the short answer or cause and effect of man is at the basis of all life reproduction. As far as I know up until recent times it took actions and decisions of a man and a woman to have sex before a baby came to being. I think there is cause and effect to that. It goes to reason then that if man...with the extreme intellect and potential God started in motion if you are a believer...can replicate the same process in a test tube, should we not be amazed and celebrating instead of "throwing stones" like in the dark ages?

I understand all the concerns over "mad scientists" cloning a "super" human race or warring machines...yet again I am not too sure that is not going on in the "natural" order of things anyways. We normal humans seem to be quite capable of fostering and birthing "war machines". But if we can also alter or guarantee cellular processes to control birth defects or potential for disease...why is that a bad thing? Test tube babies can't be much worse than the ones we are creating normally.

As I have periodically stated...if man is designed or born in "God's image", why should we not do as much of his work as possible in this life?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Burkas or Bikinis?

I woke up dreaming this morning that I was talking with a group of attractive and sensually dressed young women about their conservative religious views on sex and relationships. I must admit that the visual aspect of this dream was enjoyable...yet I woke up bothered by the conversation. Weird huh? But actually as I think about it perhaps this dream is all about some lifelong conflicts I have observed within myself and society as a whole. How do we handle the many mysteries and disparities on relationships between the sexes? Why do we place so much emphasis on fashion and appearances? Should it be a "religious" issue? Is there any "correct" or rational position between "Burkas and Bikinis"?

Now, I understand when a man starts writing on themes touching on the opposite sex or regarding feminism and roles between the sexes...many women's hair starts raising on the napes of their necks. Blood starts rushing to their heads and a sensitive, understanding male should probably get ready to make themselves scarce or just button up. As many of you know...I have never been very smart about that. I have had my share (probably more) of discussions with female friends and family members on these sensitive issues...but I haven't really written much about watch comes.

I won't cover all the issues in one blog obviously...but I will try for now to address some macros and micros on my observations on the feminine mystique and battle between the sexes. It goes without saying that my views are from a "male" perspective...and while I like to think of myself as "enlightened" or semi-educated...I'll state from the outset that I am probably too conservative for the feminists in my views...and to liberal for the ultra-conservatives. That means I probably will never achieve majority support of my views. Still, I hope my experiences can at least just be another voice in what I think is one of the least discussed or understood challenges in the world...the relationship between the sexes.

A long time ago I read the now famous book "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus". While I found the book somewhat over generalizing, I think it made many valid observations about the ongoing differences in how men and women think, feel and act. But I think the subject is much more convoluted than Dr. Gray gets into in this is much deeper and conflicted than just being from "different planets" or going back to caveman or "Tarzan and Jane" type analogies.

Much of this theme, like religion and politics, is REALLY subjective and if every person in the world is so unique...well, start combining people two by two and you have some REAL unique and different experiences in life and living. There is no exact science here...and this subject probably is at the core of modern day psychology. Not the origins of "man" or "who am I"...but more about who am I in relationship to him or her.

Here are a few of my basic observations or thoughts:

Its easier for the rest of the animal kingdom. While many species do unite for life and make families...most of them have very short life spans. They don't have to spend 50+ years together, therefore they don't have as many issues about "getting old together".

Most animals mate on pure instinct and "animal attraction". In the human race we have much more to consider such as do we come from the same class or background, will they get along with my friends and let me see his or her financial statement.

Many species, such as Deer, have special mating or "rutting" season. During this time the male testosterone is highly elevated and the females hormones somehow know to respond and get ready for mating season. Of course, in Gods infinite wisdom regarding survival of the fittest, the Bucks grow horns to fight with...mostly fighting over which Doe he is going to conquer. The biggest buck gets first choice of the Doe. Hmmm, maybe we humans evolved from know...ultimate fighting, boxing, various macho sports where we elevate the victor to the spoils...including the prettiest women. Another big difference is that people tend to be in "rutting season" every weekend. We and the rabbits...

We are the only animals who put on clothes and hide our "private parts". Whether this goes back to Adam and Eve in the "Garden of Eden", I don't know. Somehow I think it was more tied to the rationality of man when he saw that "all men were NOT created equal" and wanted to cover up that fact.

I have been privileged...or life to grow up in these modern, "interesting" times. It is just in the last century that women were given democratic rights to vote in much of the first world. It's only in the last century or so that women were "permitted" to work in traditional, wage earning jobs outside the home. Even with the advent of rapid "modernization", we are still fighting wars/conflicts over cultural and religious issues...may of which are based on women's rights in many of what we call "backward" cultures.

Even within the USA during my lifetime we have seen a shifting of values between the sexes. We have the fundamentalist religious right fighting culturally and politically to preserve values of family, home and traditional "Patriarchal" roles in society between men and women. We have gone from Victorian traditions to "free love" of the 70s to now growing acceptance of "Burkas" for Muslim women in our country. Talk about diversity!

In the midst of all that you have had the growth of "Feminism" or "Feminine Mystique" where women have demanded greater autonomy and participation in life's political and business decisions. I have always respected and supported equal rights for women...and in many ways I see them as the "stronger" sex. I am convinced most of us men would be much more "wimpy" about enduring pregnancy and the hard work of raising children and homemaking. There is an alarming growth in America of single women raising children without support from a husband or male counterpart. I respect the ability of some of those women to do that...though it is obvious to me that this is not the ideal way to live and raise kids. Yet, there are some tough women stepping up to that challenge. My mother was one of those.

Where the feminist movement loses me is when they overshoot their goals or go to extreme positions that most of their fellow females are not even in line with. I truly understand women's nature of reacting or rejecting centuries of subjugation by Patriarchal societies and religions. The animalistic raping or killing of women and children by "warriors" that even continues in many parts of our conflictive world today is inexcusable and calls into question if such men have ANY intelligence or soul. I guess not. To this end, I believe there is a fundamental nature between men and women that men should protect them...not beat and/or rape them. Sex should ALWAYS be consensual like with most intelligent beings. Unfortunately we have some very deviant creatures that have evolved over time. Personally I think those deviants should be castrated...applying basic "old testament" justice to such deviants.

On the other hand...I believe that whether you want to admit it or not...humans are VERY sexual in general. Obviously some cultures and traditions more than others embrace or allow for their sexuality. Unfortunately, mankind has been continually manipulated and "controlled" regarding their sexuality by the institutions and "powers that be". While I know arguments can be made that we are better off with strict rules and mores instead of just freely expressing our sexual natures...I think instead of making things "better" in understanding our sexuality, we have just clouded the issue and our natures with layers of guilt and cover-up to where most societies have no room for educating their children on sex without some form of prohibition and guilt tripping attached. In my opinion, this has been some of the root causes for so much deviant sexual behavior in our society. It seems to me that when people are forbidden to do something...their curiosity and drive to do so becomes that much stronger. You have MANY people living dishonestly about their sexuality. Many deviants and dysfunctional people come out of the most strict, legalistic cultures when it comes to sex. In my opinion, the "educated" world is very backward and conflicted in its expression or pursuit of sexuality. I would venture to guess that most marriages within a few years become very devoid of sexual intimacy. Why is that? Natural...or learned behaviors?

In the midst of these natural tensions between the sexes we now have growing extremes between the liberal and conservative views on the subject. With the advent of "Democracy" and "civil rights" have many people advocating freedom to wear anything...or public places. On the other hand, you have extreme Feminists pandering against making women "sex objects"...they don't think women should dress differently from men or provocatively if they want to gain respect and equality with men. Then you have ultra conservative groups within Islam, Christianity and other religions who want their women to cover up for an entirely different reason. They still view women as "property" or UNDER the man as head of household. To that end they don't want "their" woman objectified by other men...nor do they apparently want to be "tempted" by seeing other women's flesh. Apparently some people just can't see a little hairy leg without going into lusting convulsions. God apparently is NOT happy with our viewing the opposite flesh.

Well, let me summarize with a few of my admissions or viewpoints.

I have seen a lot of "flesh" in my day...but the sexiest women are those who show "just enough" but don't throw it all out there "in your face".

The art of seduction is waning in the world

I never understood scantily or seductively dressed women in public who took offense at being stared at by men. If they don't want to be observed or "lusted after"...cover up! And women who don't understand men looking at those scantily clothed women...don't understand men.

I have never understood fat men or women wearing skin tight clothing or "speedos"

I have never understood the sexual depravity I have seen in many fundamentalist religious men I have known or known of. Get honest...and get some help.

I believe "sex education" is a natural thing and doesn't need to be taught with all our adult biases and baggage. And yes, some people are more "sexual" than others. Be open and don't guilt trip the children.

There should be no laws regarding sexual activities between consenting adults. We may not like or understand the proclivities of another person...but that doesn't give us license to judge or control THEIR behavior. The only necessary laws are to protect men, women and children from unwanted advances and sexual aggression.

True equality between the sexes should include equal "freedom" (if so chosen) to explore other relationships or experiences. The macho double standard regarding sex we see throughout our societies is just that.

For me, the ideal would be we could all run around naked and somehow still see and respect the individual beauty and personality we all have. People who are "naturalists" or belong to Nudist colonies I think are pursuing this honesty. I am afraid until our world gets more honest about the nature and importance of sex in our existence, we will forever be dealing with false ideas of who we are and how we tick. While we have grown up being polite, respectful and very PRIVATE about sex...I'm not sure that has helped us much with the population boom...or the problem of pedophilia.

Burkas...or Bikinis? Depends on who's wearing them. Beyond that, it should be every womans choice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Deductive Reasoning...a dying art

Maybe it is just me, but I am having a huge disconnect with a lot of core logic in today's world. Its seems that with "new math" and modern education coming into vogue, somehow common sense and deductive reasoning has flown out the window.

Granted, deductive reasoning is not fool proof or always arriving at truth. If your premises are bad, many times your conclusion will be also. Being a proponent of "cause and effect", I think most of the world's problems can be traced back to poor premises...and primarily a lack of historical understanding or perspective.

Disconnects in our deductive reasoning is the primary cause in my opinion of the new subjectivity for words and labels. For example, what does it mean when someone says "they are Christian" or "they are Muslims"? What does it mean when someone is labeled a "Republican" or a "Democrat"? Unfortunately you have a LOT of people tossing around these labels either in self description or in defining others...yet I tend to often have big disconnects between the labels and what/who that person is or says. So what is changing...the premise or the conclusion?

I still believe in logic and "deductive reasoning". I still believe 2+2=4 and that love begets love and hate begets hate. While I don't think we can totally predict the future, I think we can have a pretty good idea on some of our deductions...

The chasm between fundamentalists versus secularists will continue to widen as more of the world becomes aware of the premises of the other through shrinking geographic access and technology/communication connections.

The poor and uneducated will be THE battleground for dominance in both democratic and dictatorial government systems. It will always be the rich/educated "few" against the "masses".

Future wars will be fought via technology and ideology rather than guns and bombs.

"Capitalism" and "Communism" will become insignificant words as both systems continue competing for economic world dominance and defining economic models. I predict Asia/China will continue to dominate in this arena while current first world powers continue to decline.

"Singularity"...where human intelligence and computer intelligence unite...will transform the world in the next 40-50 years.

This aspect of "singularity" is probably the greatest factor in determining the future of mankind. While I continue to value the "heart and soul" of alarms me how far away our emotions have taken us from solid, deductive reasoning. If and when we arrive to the point where computer intelligence and human intelligence intertwine, it is my hope that it will restore congruity and reasoning as applied to the world's problems.

My fantasy is to have a big deductive "computer" listening in on discussions/speeches at the "United Nations" and US Congress sessions...tied into big flashing neon signs flashing immediate responses to illogical arguments and proposals. I would love to see computers expressing immediate responses of "Illogical", "Unreasonable" or "untenable" to the vacuous rantings of people like Chavez, Ahmadinejad and other crazed lunatics leading various nation/states in our world. We also could use instant computer gratification when it comes to economic and tax systems. We need to somehow restore deductive reasoning to our greater human logic.

I am reminded of one of my childhood TV shows from the 60s, "Lost in Space", where the Robinson family were constantly dependent on the computerized wisdom of "The Robot". When the whimsical machinations of "Dr. Smith" got too far out of hand or the "kids" would wander off into was always "Mr Robot" who came to their rescue with solid information or practical solutions to the situation at hand...or even many times sacrificing his own welfare to protect the "weaker" human being. Is computerized intelligence capable of emotion as well? Only time will tell.

I for one am rooting for the day when our human race is more controlled by computerized "deductive reasoning" than the fanatical, ideological and emotional rationalizations that are currently destroying our natural order.

PS. For extra credit, I highly recommend reading and following one of the world's most brilliant minds on the subject of "Singularity". I have played Ray Kurzweil's keyboards over the years...but his greatest contributions are still ahead of him. Here are a few links of interest:

Ray Kurzweil: How technology's accelerating power will transform us

Ray Kurzweil - Futurist

Monday, September 13, 2010

Water...the blue gold of the next millennium

I was impacted by the Cinemax showing of this documentary "Flow...For Love of Water" which can now be viewed on demand from YouTube starting with part one as linked above.

We hear and read a lot about climate change, ecology issues from deforestation and strip mining everywhere...but comparatively few see very little coverage of what I think is THE ecology issue of our times...WATER SUPPLY.

We consistently complain and worry about the prices and supply of oil and gas related to our economies and cost of living...yet we don't flinch at buying a pint of bottled water for $2 in some stores. The primary driver of this phenomenon is our concern over drinking clean water as we recognize that our world's water supply is becoming more and more toxic by the hour.

Having grown up in the "Great Lakes" state of life has been blessed with tremendous times spent fishing, boating, skiing and just looking out over beautiful fresh lakes and streams. While I don't mind walking the fine ocean beaches you find in Florida, the Caribbean or California...I still prefer the fresh air of "sweet water"...the stuff you can drink, swim, and frolic in without being covered with salt and saline. I've tasted a lot of desalinated water from the oceans, but you can't beat the purity and good taste of mineralized sweet water from a lake or stream.

Of course, from the business side we all now know that waterfront lands, whether salt or fresh water, is always going up in price. Waterfront or view is a given as the most secure land investment one can make. I have acted on that. Yet, as this film so effectively depicts, our world's water supplies are now being controlled and affected by somewhat sinister forces and organizations that supersede our "ownership" of waterfront properties.

What God took a few million years to put into natural flow and motion, men and nations have now changed all of that for some pretty selfish concerns. I believe what I have read from many sources...that our world has millions who are hungry and thirsty NOT because of shortages of water or food, but simply because of manipulated distribution issues and hording for a few.

As this film points out so vividly, millions of people are being displaced every decade or so by huge conglomerates and countries who are "damming up" various rivers and lakes to divert water from one source to another. While there are a number of examples of positive effects and progressive results from this (such as the Panama Canal)...there are also hideous examples of taking from many to give to a few. And of course, history is full of wars and conflicts over watered lands and regions.

I will let this movie speak for itself...but I challenge every rational one of us to keep an eye on this subject and speak and act out where we can on protecting the quality and "ownership" issues of the world's water supply and quality. It's not that we have less of it...water is totally recycling...but we have less quality and uneven distribution of such in this shrinking world we live in. My parents brought me up with a solid respect for conservancy and responsible care-taking of nature. My Mom and Step dad were heavily involved in conservancy organizations throughout Michigan...and I am proud of them for that. Unfortunately, most of the world is naive and complacent about water...possibly the most important product of nature in life...the foundation of our whole food chain.

Here is a quote that struck me recently..."a lot of people live without love, but I don't know anyone that survived living without water...". Yet, we now live in a world where BAD water is the root cause for millions of deaths. Our pollution of the water and food chain are killing us faster than all the wars combined. What are we going to do about it? Water weighs heavily in my investment strategy in this life...and responsibility for clean and distributed water should be at the core of our moral fiber.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

On Faith and Religion

Having labeled myself a "recovering evangelical"...I continually come into the crossfire between my genetic family members and friends who continue in their fundamental faiths of choice and the many more recent friends and associates who tend to be a bit more dispassionate or "liberal" about religion as I have become. Being in the "crossfire" is a most adequate analogy because in this day and age as in most past generations...everyone seems to want to label or "know where you stand" on matters of faith, politics or sexual preference. In times of "war" one seems to become famous by being a "fence setter" or "in the crossfire" without choosing sides. Religion has never been more fractious or dividing in nature than it is in this supposedly modern age.

In recent conversations with various friends of definite political or religious persuasions...I have found myself quite often saying "I hope you are right". On one hand this is the easiest way to avoid debate or conflict with someone. On the other hand it is a "truism" for me. I truly WISH or want to hear that all of man's calamities, wars or economic devastation will somehow magically disappear with a miraculous intervention of either God or the leadership of a "Obama". While I personally don't think either is the case...I can truly hope for such along with a convinced friend or loved one. Building my life on that "hope" is another issue.

I don't have any big problems with "faith" since I think we all display acts of faith every day we live. We have faith in a lot of people to get through life...from parents to pilots to the cooks who prepare our food. While we can't watch or interview everyone we "trust" to do things for us, we exert "faith" that they truly have our service and best interest at the forefront of this moment in time. We drive small cars and motorcycles at high rates of speed trusting that the engineers, mechanics and dealers all assured and tested each little piece of engine, brake and wheel so that we can "feel" reasonably assured that we can safely drive 60-80 miles per hour within 50 feet in front or behind another vehicle doing the same fateful speed. That takes a lot of "faith" a lot of different people...including the OTHER drivers.

We all have core, fundamental beliefs or rationalizations that probably cannot be proven. We think we will live a long time, but we MIGHT die tomorrow. Some of us have our reasoning and emotions primarily guided by certain religious writings...whether it be the Bible, Quran, Talmud or the writings of someone like CS Lewis. Others perspectives are more swayed by Marx, the "Scientific American" or the famous atheist writer Christopher Hitchens. Some of us simply live in the world of soap operas, reality television and "People" magazine.

Speaking of Cristopher Hitchens, I couldn't help but be challenged by his article in Vanity Fair this month titled "Unanswerable Prayers". He writes quite eloquently about his battle with terminal cancer and the rising tide of letters and emails from various perspectives of religions and philosophies regarding death and disease. I admire that he can still find the mirth and ironies of the crossroads between faith and science as he contemplates his sensibilities facing the end of life as he experiences it. I find myself quite suspect of people who have "deathbed conversions" or last second changes of their mind related to faith and religion. I think these last minute "deals with the unknown", while possibly bringing peace and hope to them and those around them for some future life and invincibility of the spirit...can also lead us all into "la la land" when it comes to the meaning of our every day lives. It is beautiful and "cute" to observe children who have been led by us adults to believe in "Santa Claus" and the "tooth fairy" in order to bring excitement and hope into potentially painful experiences. Still, I think it is more dignified to accept our mortality and future demise with solid reasoning and maturity and put away childish fantasies.

My first couple decades of living I was quite convinced of my soul "living eternally". I had a "personal relationship" with my maker...and everything related to faith and religion was "mine, mine, mine" in a very personal way. And yes, I wanted that same experience for all my friends and loved ones...even the whole world. I was a semi-good "soldier of the cross", believing that self sacrifice and the gain of others was more important than my own self or "life". Fortunately I found "evolution"...and made peace with my own reasoning abilities. Since then I have spent the rest of my life analyzing all that I grew up with against all the other realities and approaches to life that make up this crazy, convoluted world we all live in. Whether you want to look around and take it all in or not...there is a vast, almost unlimited amount of facts, cause and affect that is constantly revolutionizing our lives. More and more facts and discoveries are in some ways better helping us understand our lives...and on the other hand destroying many myths we all grew up believing in. Is this a terribly devastating thing to experience? I say NO! To me the ultimate miracle of life is our mind's ability to observe, comprehend and change our lives at whatever speed we can conjure up to do so.

To me a greater travesty than "losing ones faith" is to "lose one's mind". After all, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste". Now, I suppose some have been genetically gifted more in that department than others...but I see this again as a huge area of significance for "cause and effect". I say this on "faith and observation", but I think most of us only use about 10% of our mental capacity. Many of us have traded in the painful process of reading and rationalizing for the simplicity of living according to creed and traditions...many of which strike me now as totally irrational. We come to a point of "decision" where it is more important to live in "community" with our friends and families of religious persuasion than to take a "road less traveled" that might be more personal, adventurous...and honest. It is easier to "give in" to mysticism than to face the unanswerable mysteries of life. Saying "I don't know" somehow has become a great "sin" to most religious people. If the Bible, Quran or other religious book says something, I must somehow literally believe and accept it. Religion has now become based more on books and writings than on persons or leaders. Maybe that is better in some ways since books live longer than people...but I still find it hard to worship any writers...or for sure what they WRITE. I can admire...and at the core what is admirable is the sometimes miraculous ability to put in words what we are feeling or thinking. While words can sometimes be limiting...they are also many times powerful and impacting. But lets give credit to the minds and reasoning more than the words themselves.

Life is full of miracles, but to me these miracles tend to be more about "mind over matter" than some mysterious external force controlling our universe. How else do I explain losing one of my closest "fundamentalist" friends Dennis last week to complications from "standard" heart bypass surgery who had thousands of fellow believers supporting him and his family in prayer...while some of the worlds most dubious or evil characters seem to have "nine lives" when it comes to survival? Did my friend Dennis, a believer, have any more chance of survival than the atheist Christopher Hitchens? Probably not, though no offense meant towards all my friends that prayed for him. Ultimately for me prayer has come down to not so much "petitioning God" for some change in my life...but for UNDERSTANDING of what is transpiring and what it all means. At the end of the day, the power of prayer is basically meditation seeking clarity of thought and focus on that which is important versus that which is mundane or negative.

Now let me throw you a few curves out of "right field". Every once in a while someone challenges me with "what DO you believe in". I think I have faith and belief in a LOT of things. Here is a partial list:

I believe in MYSELF and the power of a reasoning mind.

I believe there is a God/higher power that at a macro level set reason and mathematics into motion that allows the power of "cause and effect" to have its way in the universe.

I believe in a historical Jesus. I'm not sure I believe all the claims ABOUT him by third party writers...but I reasonably accept the veracity of his existence and the power and truth to many of the ideas spoken by or attributed to him. When it comes to resurrections and second comings...well, I'm not sure that is all that relevant. I plan to use his instructions for THIS life as much as they apply to me and seem reasonable...which mostly has to do with how we treat our fellow THIS life.

I believe in the power of Love...not as some "feel good" mystical, emotional version...but love as demonstrated in brotherhood, family and helping those less fortunate. It is a version of "unconditional love", but not blind or without some expectations of reciprocation. In other words, the best love is "two way". Fortunately I believe those who don't reciprocate love is a distortion versus "the norm". "Give and you shall receive"...

I believe we have all evolved from a "creator" over probably millions of years. When you are God...what is a million years or two?

I believe in the potential that someday "cause and effect" and the power of the human mind can lead us back to a unification with the "supreme mind". Perhaps we CAN reverse engineer our lives and the physical elements that cause aging and suffering. Per my present understanding, I don't have a problem with "stem cell research" and genetic studies that could rationally reverse the aging process. I know this would be bad for business in funeral homes and pastoral wakes and drive up costs of "health care"...but it IS an interesting proposition though I don't expect us to to get there in my lifetime. Still...I can HOPE:).

Finally, I believe we need to grow and experience just as much as we can in THIS lifetime. MAYBE there is some future spiritual eternal life...but no one knows for sure. To that NOW and in the best sense of "living and making the most of yourself". Most of the best "Christians" in my immediate circle do this.

I would rather "flame out" of this life at full speed and utility than sit around waiting for the next one. For me it is truly "mind over matter".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Privacy rights...

I received the following content from the Sovereign Society today and decided to pass this important perspective on via my blog. These are things you may not know--and may not want to hear. In my opinion they are fundamental to our personal and national freedoms based on constitutional rights...

Let’s start with a freedom quiz:

Did You Know …

1) The U.S. government uses your travel records to create a “risk assessment” profile, to decide if you’re a security risk and whether you’ll be allowed to travel?

2) The government can access your prescription drug records under their “Prescription Drug Monitoring Program”?

3) President George W. Bush’s wiretapping and communications surveillance has not gone away, but been expanded under President Obama?

4) The Patriot Act is unconstitutional and allows government agents to secretly access any financial information about you they want?

5) The FBI and the U.S. military admitted to obtaining information on thousands of U.S. citizens without the search warrants that the Fourth Amendment requires?

Even More Snoop Power, Coming Soon

The Obama Justice Department is trying to convince federal courts to extend warrantless surveillance powers beyond even what the Patriot Act provides.

The government now wants free access to ALL private e-mail and Internet browsing records and pending legislation in Congress may do exactly that.

Including those who are not suspected of any wrongdoing! And without any warrants, or judicial supervision of any kind!


Libertarian columnist Glenn Greenwald writes, “It is unsurprising that the 9/11 attack fostered a massive expansion of America’s already sprawling Surveillance State. But what is far less understandable, is that this growth shows no signs of abating even as we approach almost a full decade of emotional and temporal distance from that event…Simply put, there is no surveillance power too intrusive or unaccountable for our political class provided the word ‘terrorism’ is invoked to justify those powers.”

Americans, of all people in the world, should be ashamed of themselves if they are willing to stand by and watch their hard-won freedoms diminish … or disappear.

'What Do I Have to Hide?'

This question infuriates me.

It’s bad enough when the government asks, but worse when free people ask themselves.
I’ll answer for both.

The government, wanting surveillance of your finances and every other aspect of your life, reasons: “If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Here’s your answer – to the government, your friends who don’t value their own privacy and any other askers:

Privacy is an inherent human right. It is a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Why do humans clothe their bodies? Why do we live in houses? Is not privacy central to just about every aspect of our lives?

Do you share your finances with everyone you meet? Do you spill every secret thought that goes through your mind to the next stranger who walks by?

So isn’t privacy a very intimate part of who we are?

And if we wanted our e-mails read by anyone other than the person to whom we’ve written them, wouldn’t we instead blog or “tweet” them to the world?

Personal Freedom vs. Government Control

The real choices are personal freedom and liberty versus government control of our lives and our fortunes.

Tyranny -- whether it arises under threat of terrorist attack, alleged solutions to banking problems or under any other form of scrutiny -- is still tyranny.

Liberty requires security plus privacy.

Widespread surveillance, whether by police or nosy bureaucrats, is the very definition of a police state.

It is up to us to champion our privacy. Personal and financial, even (and especially) when we have nothing to hide.

The Government Already Has All the Authority it Needs to Fight Real Crime

The truth is that government really doesn’t need these enormous policing powers.

Under the U.S. Constitution and laws, government already has authority to investigate and prosecute anyone it has probable cause to believe has committed, or is planning to commit, a crime.

It also has authority for surveillance of anyone it has probable cause to believe represents a foreign power or is a spy. Even if the person is not suspected of any crime.

And honestly, these ever-expanding police powers that destroy our liberty and privacy likely won’t increase our safety. Yet, they’ve destroyed our constitutional rights.

When I was 15-years-old, I swore my first oath to support and defend the United States Constitution when I served as a young page in the House of Representatives. And I took that same oath to uphold the Constitution as a member of Congress (a Republican and a conservative).

Every congressman and senator currently serving has also “sworn their allegiance.”

Knowing this oath, how can we explain Congress’ continuing support of unconstitutional laws? Laws like the Patriot Act destroy guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.

My answer: fear. It's not justified fear of "terrorism" -- but cowardly fear of politicians not getting re-elected. Politics rules, and to hell with the U.S. Constitution!

Faithfully yours,

Robert E. Bauman JD
Former Congressman from Texas

A couple famous quotes in closing...

“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”--Benjamin Franklin

“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”--John F. Kennedy

"Nations grown corrupt
Love bondage more than liberty;
Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty."
~John Milton

"Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance." ~Woodrow Wilson

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." ~James Madison, speech, Virginia Convention, 1788